Tag Archives: Julian Assange

Jonathan Cook on revelations of Paul Mason and Carole Cadwalladr’s deep collusion with western intelligence agencies and the broader implications

Reprinted below is a two-part investigative piece by independent journalist Jonathan Cook on the recently disclosed involvement of “celebrated” liberal media journalists – in particular Paul Mason and Carole Cadwalladr – working in undercover collusion with the British security state. In the second part, Cook then documents and collates evidence of more extensive penetration of the mainstream media by western intelligence services.

To those who are doubtful about widespread recruitment of journalists by British intelligence services, Cook cites the case of Channel 4’s Jon Snow, who rejected approaches to spy on his own colleagues. Asked at first to supply information about the Communist Party, Snow was later asked to spy on certain “left-wing people” working in television. He revealed (in 2015) that in return he would have received secret monthly and tax-free payments into his bank account matching his then salary.

Cook adds only: “Most journalists are not likely to talk of such approaches, either because they have accepted them or because disclosure might harm their careers. Snow left it until very late in his own career before mentioning the incident. But there is no reason to imagine such approaches do not continue to be made on a regular basis.”

In the reprinted articles below, all links, images, tweets, etc. have been retained throughout.

*

Events of the past few days suggest British journalism – the so-called Fourth Estate – is not what it purports to be: a watchdog monitoring the centers of state power. It is quite the opposite.

The pretensions of the establishment media took a severe battering this month as the defamation trial of Guardian columnist Carole Cadwalladr reached its conclusion and the hacked emails of Paul Mason, a long-time stalwart of the BBC, Channel 4 and the Guardian, were published online.

Both of these celebrated journalists have found themselves outed as recruits – in their differing ways – to a covert information war being waged by Western intelligence agencies.

Had they been honest about it, that collusion might not matter so much. After all, few journalists are as neutral or as dispassionate as the profession likes to pretend. But as have many of their colleagues, Cadwalladr and Mason have broken what should be a core principle of journalism: transparency.

The role of serious journalists is to bring matters of import into the public space for debate and scrutiny. Journalists thinking critically aspire to hold those who wield power – primarily state agencies – to account on the principle that, without scrutiny, power quickly corrupts.

The purpose of real journalism – as opposed to the gossip, entertainment and national-security stenography that usually passes for journalism – is to hit up, not down.

And yet, each of these journalists, we now know, was actively colluding, or seeking to collude, with state actors who prefer to operate in the shadows, out of sight. Both journalists were coopted to advance the aims of the intelligence services.

And worse, each of them either sought to become a conduit for, or actively assist in, covert smear campaigns run by Western intelligence services against other journalists.

What they were doing – along with so many other establishment journalists – is the very antithesis of journalism. They were helping to conceal the operation of power to make it harder to scrutinize. And not only that. In the process, they were trying to weaken already marginalized journalists fighting to hold state power to account.

Russian collusion?

Cadwalladr’s cooperation with the intelligence services has been highlighted only because of a court case. She was sued for defamation by Arron Banks, a businessman and major donor to the successful Brexit campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.

In a kind of transatlantic extension of the Russiagate hysteria in the United States following Donald Trump’s election as president in 2016, Cadwalladr accused Banks of lying about his ties to the Russian state. According to the court, she also suggested he broke election funding laws by receiving Russian money in the run-up to the Brexit vote, also in 2016.

That year serves as a kind of ground zero for liberals fearful about the future of “Western democracy” – supposedly under threat from modern “barbarians at the gate,” such as Russia and China – and the ability of Western states to defend their primacy through neo-colonial wars of aggression around the globe.

The implication is Russia masterminded a double subversion in 2016: on one side of the Atlantic, Trump was elected U.S. president; and, on the other, Britons were gulled into shooting themselves in the foot – and undermining Europe – by voting to leave the EU.

Faced with the court case, Cadwalladr could not support her allegations against Banks as true. Nonetheless, the judge ruled against Banks’ libel action – on the basis that the claims had not sufficiently harmed his reputation.

The judge also decided, perversely in a British defamation action, that Cadwalladr had “reasonable grounds” to publish claims that Banks received “sweetheart deals” from Russia, even though “she had seen no evidence he had entered into any such deals.” An investigation by the National Crime Agency ultimately found no evidence either.

So given those circumstances, what was the basis for her accusations against Banks?

Cadwalladr’s journalistic modus operandi, in her long-running efforts to suggest widespread Russian meddling in British politics, is highlighted in her witness statement to the court.

In it, she refers to another of her Russiagate-style stories: one from 2017 that tried to connect the Kremlin with Nigel Farage, a former pro-Brexit politician with the UKIP Party and close associate of Banks, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been a political prisoner in the U.K. for more than a decade.

At that time, Assange was confined to a single room in the Ecuadorian Embassy after its government offered him political asylum. He had sought sanctuary there, fearing he would be extradited to the U.S. following publication by WikiLeaks of revelations that the U.S. and U.K. had committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks had also deeply embarrassed the CIA by following up with the publication of leaked documents, known as Vault 7, exposing the agency’s own crimes.

Last week the U.K.’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, approved the very extradition to the U.S. that Assange feared and that drove him into the Ecuadorian embassy. Once in the U.S., he faces up to 175 years in complete isolation in a supermax jail.

Assassination plot

We now know, courtesy of a Yahoo News investigation, that through 2017 the CIA hatched various schemes to either assassinate Assange or kidnap him in one of its illegal “extraordinary rendition” operations, so he could be permanently locked up in the U.S., out of public view.

We can surmise that the CIA also believed it needed to prepare the ground for such a rogue operation by bringing the public on board. According to Yahoo’s investigation, the CIA believed Assange’s seizure might require a gun battle on the streets of London.

It was at this point, it seems, that Cadwalladr and the Guardian were encouraged to add their own weight to the cause of further turning public opinion against Assange.

According to her witness statement, “a confidential source in [the] U.S.” suggested – at the very time the CIA was mulling over these various plots – that she write about a supposed visit by Farage to Assange in the embassy. The story ran in the Guardian under the headline “When Nigel Farage met Julian Assange.”

In the article, Cadwalladr offers a strong hint as to who had been treating her as a confidant: the one source mentioned in the piece is “a highly placed contact with links to U.S. intelligence.” In other words, the CIA almost certainly fed her the agency’s angle on the story.

In the piece, Cadwalladr threads together her and the CIA’s claims of “a political alignment between WikiLeaks’ ideology, UKIP’s ideology and Trump’s ideology.” Behind the scenes, she suggests, was the hidden hand of the Kremlin, guiding them all in a malign plot to fatally undermine British democracy.

She quotes her “highly placed contact” claiming that Farage and Assange’s alleged face-to-face meeting was necessary to pass information of their nefarious plot “in ways and places that cannot be monitored.”

Except of course, as her “highly placed contact” knew – and as we now know, thanks to exposes by the Grayzone website – that was a lie. In tandem with its plot to kill or kidnap Assange, the CIA illegally installed cameras inside, as well as outside, the embassy. His every move in the embassy was monitored – even in the toilet block.

The reality was that the CIA was bugging and videoing Assange’s every conversation in the embassy, even the face-to-face ones. If the CIA actually had a recording of Assange and Farage meeting and discussing a Kremlin-inspired plot, it would have found a way to make it public by now.

Far more plausible is what Farage and WikiLeaks say: that such a meeting never happened. Farage visited the embassy to try to interview Assange for his LBC radio show but was denied access. That can be easily confirmed because by then the Ecuadorian embassy was allying with the U.S. and refusing Assange any contact with visitors apart from his lawyers.

Nonetheless, Cadwalladr concludes: “In the perfect storm of fake news, disinformation and social media in which we now live, WikiLeaks is, in many ways, the swirling vortex at the centre of everything.”

‘Swirling vortex’

The Farage-Assange meeting story shows how the CIA and Cadwalladr’s agendas perfectly coincided in their very own “swirling vortex” of fake news and disinformation.

She wanted to tie the Brexit campaign to Russia and suggest that anyone who wished to challenge the liberal pieties that provide cover for the crimes committed by Western states must necessarily belong to a network of conspirators, on the left and the right, masterminded from Moscow.

The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies, meanwhile, wanted to deepen the public’s impression that Assange was a Kremlin agent – and that WikiLeaks’ exposure of the crimes committed by those same agencies was not in the public interest but actually an assault on Western democracy.

Assange’s character assassination had already been largely achieved with the American public in the Russiagate campaign in the U.S. The intelligence services, along with the Democratic Party leadership, had crafted a narrative designed to obscure WikiLeaks’ revelations of election-fixing by Hillary Clinton’s camp in 2016 to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the party’s presidential nomination. Instead they refocused the public’s attention on evidence-free claims that Russia had “hacked” the emails.

For Cadwalladr and the CIA, the fake-news story of Farage meeting Assange could be spun as further proof that both the “far left” and “far right” were colluding with Russia. Their message was clear: only centrists – and the national security state – could be trusted to defend democracy.

Fabricated story

Cadwalladr’s smear of Assange is entirely of a piece with the vilification campaign of WikiLeaks led by liberal media outlets to which she belongs. Her paper, the Guardian, has had Assange in its sights since its falling out with him over their joint publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs in 2010.

A year after Cadwalladr’s smear piece, the Guardian would continue its cooperation with the intelligence services’ demonization of Assange by running an equally fabricated story – this time about a senior aide of Trump’s, Paul Manafort, and various unidentified “Russians” secretly meeting Assange in the embassy.

The story was so improbable it was ridiculed even at the time of publication. Again, the CIA’s illegal spying operation inside and outside the embassy meant there was no way Manafort or any “Russians” could have secretly visited Assange without those meetings being recorded. Nonetheless, the Guardian has never retracted the smear.

One of the authors of the article, Luke Harding, has been at the forefront of both the Guardian’s Russiagate claims and its efforts to defame Assange. In doing so, he appears to have relied heavily on Western intelligence services for his stories and has proven incapable of defending them when challenged.

Harding, like the Guardian, has an added investment in discrediting Assange. He and a Guardian colleague, David Leigh, published a Guardian-imprint book that included a secret password to a WikiLeaks’ cache of leaked documents, thereby providing security services around the world with access to the material.

The CIA’s claim that the release of those documents endangered its informants – a claim that even U.S. officials have been forced to concede is not true – has been laid at Assange’s door to vilify him and justify his imprisonment. But if anyone is to blame, it is not Assange but Harding, Leigh and the Guardian.

Effort to deplatform

The case of Paul Mason, who worked for many years as a senior BBC journalist, is even more revealing. Emails passed to the Grayzone website show the veteran, self-described “left-wing” journalist secretly conspiring with figures aligned with British intelligence services to build a network of journalists and academics to smear and censor independent media outlets that challenge the narratives of the Western intelligence agencies.

Mason’s concerns about left-wing influence on public opinion have intensified the more he has faced criticism from the left over his demands for fervent, uncritical support of NATO and as he has lobbied for greater Western interference in Ukraine. Both are aims he shares with Western intelligence services.

Along with the establishment media, Mason has called for sending advanced weaponry to Kyiv, likely to raise the death toll on both sides of the war and risk a nuclear confrontation between the West and Russia.

In the published emails, Mason suggests the harming and “relentless deplatforming” of independent investigative media sites – such as the Grayzone, Consortium News and Mint Press – that host non-establishment journalists. He and his correspondents also debate whether to include Declassified UK and OpenDemocracy. One of his co-conspirators suggests a “full nuclear legal to squeeze them financially.”

Mason himself proposes starving these websites of income by secretly pressuring Paypal to stop readers from being able to make donations to support their work.

It should be noted that, in the wake of Mason’s correspondence,  PayPal did indeed launch just such a crackdown, including against Consortium News and MintPress, after earlier targeting WikiLeaks.

Mason’s email correspondents include two figures intimately tied to British intelligence: Amil Khan is described by the Grayzone as “a shadowy intelligence contractor” with ties to the U.K.’s National Security Council. He founded Valent Projects, establishing his credentials in a dirty propaganda war in support of head-chopping jihadist groups trying to bring down the Russian-supported Syrian government.

Clandestine ‘clusters’

The other intelligence operative is someone Mason refers to as a “friend”: Andy Pryce, the head of the Foreign Office’s shadowy Counter Disinformation and Media Development (CDMD) unit, founded in 2016 to “counter-strike against Russian propaganda.” Mason and Pryce spend much of their correspondence discussing when to meet up in London pubs for a drink, according to the Grayzone.

The Foreign Office managed to keep the CDMD unit’s existence secret for two years. The U.K. government has refused to disclose basic information about the CDMD on grounds of national security, although it is now known that it is overseen by the National Security Council.

The CDMD’s existence came to light because of leaks about another covert information warfare operation, the Integrity Initiative.

Notably, the Integrity Initiative was run on the basis of clandestine “clusters,” in North America and Europe, of journalists, academics, politicians and security officials advancing narratives shared with Western intelligence agencies to discredit Russia, China, Julian Assange, and Jeremy Corbyn, the former, left-wing leader of the Labour Party.

Cadwalladr was named in the British cluster, along with other prominent journalists: David Aaronovitch and Dominic Kennedy of the Times; the Guardian’s Natalie Nougayrede and Paul Canning; Jonathan Marcus of the BBC; the Financial Times’ Neil Buckley; the Economist’s Edward Lucas; and Sky News’ Deborah Haynes.

In his emails, Mason appears to want to renew this type of work but to direct its energies more specifically at damaging independent, dissident media – with his number one target the Grayzone, which played a critical role in exposing the Integrity Initiative.

Mason’s “friend” – the CDMD’s head, Andy Pryce – “featured prominently” in documents relating to the Integrity Initiative, the Grayzone observes.

This background is not lost on Mason. He notes in his correspondence the danger that his plot to “deplatform” independent media could “end up with the same problem as Statecraft” – a reference to the Institute of Statecraft, the Integrity Initiative’s parent charity, which the Grayzone and others exposed. He cautions: “The opposition are not stupid, they can spot an info op – so the more this is designed to be organic the better.”

Pryce and Mason discuss creating an astroturf civil-society organization that would lead their “information war” as part of an operation they brand the “International Information Brigade”.

Mason suggests the suspension of the libel laws for what he calls “foreign agents” – presumably meaning that the Information Brigade would be able to defame independent journalists as Russian agents, echoing the establishment media’s treatment of Assange, without fear of legal action that would show these were evidence-free smears.

‘Putin infosphere’

Another correspondent, Emma Briant, an academic who claims to specialize in Russian disinformation, offers an insight into how she defines the presumed enemy within: those “close to WikiLeaks,” anyone “trolling Carole [Cadwalladr],” and outlets “discouraging people from reading the Guardian.”

Mason himself produces an eye-popping, self-drawn, spider’s web chart [see below] of the supposedly “pro-Putin infosphere” in the U.K., embracing much of the left, including Corbyn, the Stop the War movement, as well as the Black and Muslim communities. Several media sites are mentioned, including Mint Press and Novara Media, an independent British website sympathetic to Corbyn.

network-of-influence

Khan and Mason consider how they can help trigger a British government investigation of independent outlets so that they can be labeled as “Russian-state affiliated media” to further remove them from visibility on social media.

Mason states that the goal is to prevent the emergence of a “left anti-imperialist identity,” which, he fears, “will be attractive because liberalism doesn’t know how to counter it” – a telling admission that he believes genuine left-wing critiques of Western foreign policy cannot be dealt with through public refutation but only through secret disinformation campaigns.

He urges efforts to crack down not only on independent media and “rogue” academics but on left-wing political activism. He identifies as a particular threat Corbyn, who was earlier harmed through a series of disinformation campaigns, including entirely evidence-free claims that the Labour Party during his tenure became a hotbed of antisemitism. Mason fears Corbyn might set up a new, independent left-wing party. It is important, Mason notes, to “quarantine” and “stigmatize” any such ideology.

In short, rather than use journalism to win the argument and the battle for public opinion, Mason wishes to use the dark arts of the security state to damage independent media, as well as dissident academics and left-wing political activism. He wants no influences on the public that are not tightly aligned with the core foreign policy goals of the national security state.

Mason’s correspondence hints at the reality behind Cadwalladr’s claim that Assange was the “swirling vortex at the centre of everything.” Assange symbolizes that “swirling vortex” to intelligence-aligned establishment journalists only because WikiLeaks has published plenty of insider information that exposes Western claims to global moral leadership as a complete charade – and the journalists who amplify those claims as utter charlatans.

In part two, we will examine why journalists like Mason and Cadwalladr prosper in the establishment media; the long history of collusion between Western intelligence agencies and the establishment media; and how that mutually beneficial collusion is becoming ever more important to each of them.

Click here to read the original article entitled “British ‘Watchdog’ Journalists Unmasked as Lap Dogs for the Security State” written by Jonathan Cook, published in Mint Press News on June 21st.

*

Earlier this month, Russia banned 29 British journalists, including several from the BBC and The Guardian, on the grounds that they were “associated with the defense complex”. That claim was not, at least in all cases, quite as preposterous as was widely assumed.

In part one of this two-part series, we saw how the Guardian’s Luke Harding – one of the journalists banned by Russia – has promoted entirely unsubstantiated smear stories that have hewn closely to the agenda of Western intelligence services. Harding even wrote a prominent Russiagate book and could not defend its basic claims when challenged by independent journalist Aaron Maté.

Although Russia’s ban provoked a predictable, self-righteous backlash from the U.K. media – and was adduced as further evidence of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian tendencies – Moscow was, in fact, mirroring earlier bans by the British authorities and the European Union on Russian state-sponsored media. None of the British journalists now barred from Russia raised their voices in protest at the banning of the English-language broadcasts and the websites of RT and Sputnik.

In popular imagination, cultivated jointly by Western establishment media and Western intelligence agencies, both outlets are staffed by Russian spooks strong-arming a few impressionable Westerners with Stalinist tendencies. The reality is very different. RT wants to have influence in the West, and the only way to achieve that is by recruiting credible Western journalists who have trenchant criticisms of the Western national-security state and its war industries but cannot – for that very reason – find a platform in the establishment media at home. RT might not be the best place to get a neutral view of what Russia is up to, but it had attracted a growing audience in the West by providing an outlet for disillusioned Western journalists who are ready to paint a realistic picture of the failings of their own states.

One of RT’s journalists, for example, was Chris Hedges, a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He has had a long and distinguished journalistic career and has won major journalism awards. Nonetheless, six years of his Emmy-nominated “On Contact” programme for RT America – interviewing major public figures – was erased from Youtube’s channel overnight.

In part one, we considered the cases of two celebrated British journalists – Paul Mason and Carole Cadwalladr – who were revealed to be covertly colluding with Western intelligence services. Not only that, but they had used those contacts to try to harm other journalists who have been taking on the British and U.S. security states. They had been effectively recruited – or in Mason’s case, possibly recruited himself – to a covert, and dirty, information war. The paradox is that, while Cadwalladr and Mason have been accusing – without evidence – journalists in the West of colluding with foreign intelligence agencies, they themselves have been colluding with their own intelligence services to smear other reporters. If Russian intelligence needs a troll farm to spread disinformation, Western intelligence can rely, it seems, on compliant celebrity journalists in British mainstream outlets to do the same work.

Circling the wagons

Neither Cadwalladr nor Mason is likely to pay a price for their actions. In fact, they can expect to be rewarded – a sign that this kind of covert collusion is desired by establishment media, not least liberal outlets like the Guardian that try to create the misleading impression that they are somehow oppositional to the security state.

That should come as no surprise – and not just because these types of collusion work to the joint benefit of the establishment media and the intelligence services. The media outlet gets an exclusive – often one rooted in a smear operation by the state, as with Cadwalladr’s story of Farage meeting Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (documented in part one) – which they do not need to stand up beyond the simple attribution to a “well-placed”, anonymous “source”.

Meanwhile, the intelligence services set the news agenda, including with smears that target those trying to hold them to account, but cannot be scrutinized over such claims because they can shield behind anonymity. In such cases, the so-called Fourth Estate serves as simply a stenographer for the state. It amplifies the state’s self-serving allegations but adds a veneer of legitimacy through its own supposed verification via publication.

The media’s collusion, however, is not just servile. With the advent of the internet and social media, the establishment press and the intelligence services have found their interests more in tune than ever before. Independent media of the kind that seeks to hold state power to account – such as, for example, MintPress News or the Grayzone, about which Mason was so keen to spread disinformation (again, documented in part one) – or foreign channels like RT that give a platform to independent Western journalists, are treated as a threat by both the intelligence services and the establishment media.

But whereas foreign channels like RT can be easily vilified because of their ties to “enemy” states, and shut down on those grounds alone, it is more difficult to make the case for censoring independent media. It requires first a concerted campaign of Western disinformation and smears to undermine independent journalism – as we shall examine later in this article.

The powerful see such smear campaigns as vitally important. Because it is free to report stories of state crimes the establishment media mostly avoids, independent media exposes the establishment media for what it really is: the public relations arm of the state. It shows the extent to which serious, critical journalism is absent from the mainstream. And as a rival source of news, independent media leaves readers more aware of what the establishment media is choosing not to cover – and hints at why.

Paradoxically, the more effective independent media has become, the more the establishment media has circled the wagons to protect itself from this upstart media, labeling its competitors’ coverage “fake news” and “Russian disinformation”. Meanwhile, the new establishment media monopolies emerging from the digital revolution – Silicon Valley platforms like Facebook/Meta, Google/Youtube and Twitter – have gradually joined this assault, changing their algorithms to make it ever harder for people to read independent media.

Recruited to spy

If the suggestion of widespread collusion with the intelligence services by our most celebrated journalists and the establishment outlets they work for sounds improbable, consider this:

Jon Snow, who gained national treasure status in the U.K. after serving as Channel 4 News’ front man for many years, revealed in 2015 that the British intelligence services had tried to recruit him 40 years earlier, when he was an up-and-coming broadcast journalist. He was asked to spy on “left-wing” television colleagues, in return for a secret, tax-free salary that would match what he was already being paid by his employer.

Most journalists are not likely to talk of such approaches, either because they have accepted them or because disclosure might harm their careers. Snow left it until very late in his own career before mentioning the incident. But there is no reason to imagine such approaches do not continue to be made on a regular basis.

I have never written of it before – it seemed too self-aggrandising, and until now not particularly pertinent to any piece I was writing – but a decade or so ago, I was quietly “sounded out” by a British diplomat. He wanted to see if I would supply the Foreign Office with off-the-record information on my specialist subject: the Palestinian minority in Israel. I refused, and the official dropped contact.

Given that I am a left-wing, freelance journalist far from the center of power, I was left wondering how common it is for better-placed, more mainstream journalists, ones who mix regularly with British officials, to be on the receiving end of such offers. Presumably an initial, low-key approach like the one made to me is intended to see how amenable a journalist might be to becoming more involved with the intelligence services. Mutual trust is gradually built.

On the CIA payroll

Back in 1977, Carl Bernstein, who was, alongside Bob Woodward, one of the world’s most famous journalists thanks to their reporting of the Watergate scandal, turned his attention to the extent of collusion between the U.S. media and the CIA. His engagement with this contentious subject likely damaged his career – at least compared to Woodward, who spent his later years continuing to make a name for himself hanging around the Oval Office relaying insider gossip.

Bernstein’s interest in the relationship between the intelligence services and journalists probably derived from his own Watergate experiences. Ultimately, he and Woodward got their scoop – later turned into a book, then a film called “All the President’s Men” – not only through hard graft but because they were used as pawns in a high-level power battle.

As would become public knowledge in 2005, Deep Throat, the insider who gave them the leads they needed to bring down President Richard Nixon, was Mark Felt, then the FBI’s associate director and a loyalist of longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Felt had a score to settle with Nixon after he was passed over for the top job at the bureau when Hoover died.

Woodward knew Felt from his navy days, and had cultivated a relationship with his man in the FBI long before Watergate. Those long-term ties had presumably assisted them both: Felt because he could release stories that helped the bureau secretly shape the public narrative, and Woodward because he had access to information that gave him an edge over rival journalists.

Bernstein’s mammoth investigation in 1977 for Rolling Stone exposed the collusion between the CIA and journalists – collusion that had parallels with that between Woodward and Felt. Bernstein found evidence in the agency’s files that at least 400 U.S. journalists had “secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency”.

Bernstein observed:

“Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad.”

CIA documents also showed, as Bernstein reported, that “journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.”

The agency particularly valued its relationship with more liberal U.S. outlets like The New York Times, Time magazine and CBS News, who were seen as more credible as vehicles for its information war. The CIA-recruited journalists signed secrecy agreements, pledging never to divulge their relationship to the agency. But in fact, as Bernstein makes clear, the existence of these CIA-journalists was an open secret in most newsrooms.

Bernstein suggests it was easy for the CIA to recruit journalists to carry out its covert work, and get editors to cooperate or turn a blind eye, because of the paranoid political climate produced by the Cold War. Journalists did not feel they were taking a side; they were supposedly involved in an existential fight to defend the right of people to live in freedom.

One has to wonder how much has changed in a world where the aggressively promoted threats of Islamist extremism, Russian “imperialism” and a more nebulous “clash of civilizations” obsess the West’s political class. Journalists are as susceptible to those fears as their predecessors were to the Cold War, and doubtless as easily manipulated.

In the shadows

Investigative journalist Nick Davies dedicated a chapter of his 2009 book “Flat Earth News” to assess how deeply the Western intelligence services had penetrated the media, at home and abroad. Ultimately, Davies concedes, it is almost impossible to know, given that such collusion necessarily happens in the shadows.

Back in the mid-1970s, around the same time as Bernstein’s work, two Congressional committees – led by Senator Frank Church and House Representative Otis Pike – had set out to investigate the matter. This was the period, we should note, when Snow was being incentivised to spy on colleagues in the U.K.

As Bernstein points out, the Church Committee mostly covered up what it found; refused to question any of the journalists involved; accepted highly redacted, or “sanitized”, documents; and was heavily swayed by senior figures from the CIA, such as William Colby and George H. W. Bush. The Pike Committee fared little better, and publication of its findings were suppressed in the U.S.

Both Congressional investigations had been triggered by concerns, post-Watergate, about the dangers of presidential abuse of the CIA’s powers and the need for greater Congressional oversight.

Under this pressure, the CIA promised to wind down its activities and banned direct payments to journalists. But the powerlessness of Congress to truly get to grips with what the CIA was up to suggests that the agency likely refashioned the program in new ways.

In any case, the agency’s ability to control media coverage probably grew easier over time with the concentration of media ownership. The handful of giant corporations that now control almost all mainstream media in the U.S. share most of the security establishment’s concerns, just as ordinary journalists did during the Cold War.

A paper in every capital

Nonetheless, in his book, Davies pieced together what he could from the available documents. They showed that in the post-war period the CIA had employed at least 800 covert journalist “assets” – reporters, editors, media owners – around the world, pumping out its disinformation. The figures included only those on the agency’s payroll, not those who cooperated with it, shared its aims, or were influenced by its briefings.

These journalists were likely operating as part of a wider CIA covert information war known as “Operation Mockingbird”. The aim was to conceal the agency’s covert or illegal foreign operations, such as its overthrow of democratic governments in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954, and control the media’s coverage of foreign policy fiascos such as the failed U.S.-directed invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs in 1961.

To achieve these deceptions, as one CIA official admitted to the New York Times, the agency had investments in a large number of newspapers and TV stations around the world, and even covertly set up its own media outlets. “We had at least one newspaper in every foreign capital at any given time,” he said.

Operating outlets abroad meant the CIA could manipulate more convincingly the domestic news agenda. Once it had placed a false or skewed local story in an outlet it secretly owned – such as The Tokyo Evening News or Chile’s South Pacific Mail – news agencies like Reuters and Associated Press, as well as major U.S. TV stations and newspapers, could be relied on to pick it up and spread the CIA’s disinformation around the world. The agency could quickly turn the world’s media into its own echo chamber on any major topic. Thus, just as mockingbirds mimic the songs of other birds, so the media came to repeat CIA talking points.

In 1983 John Stockwell, a former head of the CIA’s Angola task force, explained on camera the ease with which the CIA channeled its propaganda through witting and unwitting journalists. “I had propagandists all over the world,” he observed. Referring to his involvement in a disinformation campaign against Cuba, he said:

“We pumped dozens of stories about Cuban atrocities, Cuban rapists [to the media]… We ran [faked] photographs that made almost every newspaper in the country… We didn’t know of one single atrocity committed by the Cubans. It was pure, raw, false propaganda to create an illusion of communists eating babies for breakfast.”

According to Stockwell, the CIA secretly sponsored the publication of thousands of propaganda books promoting its preferred angles on Vietnam, communism and U.S. foreign policy. Some of the authors, noted Stockwell, “are now distinguished scholars and journalists”.

The Pike Committee estimated conservatively from the limited documents it gained access to that almost a third of the CIA’s budget was spent on propaganda operations. It noted that the figure might be much higher. Even so, the sum was more than the combined budgets of the world’s three largest news agencies: Associated Press, UPI and Reuters.

The CIA and its British counterpart, MI6, could boast numerous agents in the foreign bureaux of all three international news agencies. The CIA even created its own news agency, sending stories to 140 newspapers around the globe.

CIA agents were also found to have been working in the most prestigious U.S. media outlets. The New York Times employed at least 10 of them. At various times, Newsweek’s editor, foreign editor, Washington bureau chief and a host of reporters were on the CIA’s books. Time magazine, Reader’s Digest and the Christian Science Monitor all cooperated closely with the agency. American television networks routinely allowed the CIA to monitor their newsrooms.

Davies cites a report in the Guardian from 1991 that the CIA was found to have made payments to 90 British journalists. MI6 presumably had a separate, and at least as large, cadre of senior U.K. journalists on the payroll.

During that period, Britain ran its own propaganda unit, the Information Research Department (IRD), which cultivated journalists in similar ways to the CIA. Its task, according to Declassified U.K., was “to discredit human rights figures, undermine political opponents overseas, help overthrow governments, and promote U.K. influence and commercial interests around the world.” The British government also used the IRD to damage anyone perceived to be a domestic opponent.

Earlier this month, Declassified U.K. revealed that, in 1971, the Australian government set up its own unit modeled on Britain’s IRD and recruited senior Australian journalists to collaborate with it.

Credulous reporting

It would be foolish to imagine that, in this more complex information age, the U.S. and U.K. intelligence services’ influence over journalists has diminished. Both Cadwalladr and Mason’s cases illustrate how intimate those ties still are.

The New York Timeslet go” one of its star reporters, Judith Miller, in 2005. Her reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction – coverage that was critical to rationalizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq in violation of international law – were utterly discredited by later developments. There were no WMDs in Iraq. Western inspectors had consistently said this, but their voices were drowned out by pro-war media. Miller, who claimed she was given special Pentagon security clearance, had been fed stories by U.S. intelligence agencies. She had acted as an uncritical conduit for CIA disinformation that was then repeated by other major outlets.

She was far from alone in channeling fake news from intelligence agencies in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. The New York Times apologized for its mistakes, promising it would learn from the episode. But it has been just as credulous in regurgitating the intelligence services’ claims in recent U.S. proxy wars and regime change attempts – in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Venezuela and elsewhere. Miller was not sacked because she served as a willing channel for Western disinformation. Rather, real-world events required the New York Times to make someone a sacrificial victim for its all-too-obvious failings over Iraq. She was the ideal scapegoat.

Institutional collusion with the intelligence services has also become all too evident at the Guardian, the New York Times’ U.K. counterpart. Declassified U.K. has documented how the the Guardian has been increasingly co-opted by the British intelligence services after its publication in 2013 of the Edward Snowden leaks. Among other things, those leaks revealed that the U.S. and U.K. were operating secret and illegal mass surveillance programmes.

At that time, the Guardian, unlike other British media outlets, had a well-publicized opposition to taking part in the supposedly voluntary D-notice system, run by the Ministry of Defense, to regulate information that might threaten national security. After the initial Snowden revelations from the Guardian, the D-Notice Committee issued a notice against further publication of information released by Snowden. Most British outlets either ignored the leaks or offered minimal coverage. The Guardian, however, defied the government’s advice.

Shortly afterwards, officials from GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the National Security Agency, arrived at the paper and ordered it to destroy the laptops containing the Snowden material. The paper complied, with deputy editor Paul Johnson overseeing the destruction. Soon, the D-Notice Committee was able to report that “engagement” with the Guardian was strengthening and there was “regular dialogue” with its staff. The “culmination”, as the committee referred to it, was Paul Johnson’s agreement to sit on the committee itself.

When in 2015 the Guardian appointed a new editor, Katharine Viner, whose background was in fashion journalism, the security services appeared to seize the chance to lure the newspaper into greater cooperation. A year later the paper boasted that it secured the “first newspaper interview given by an incumbent MI5 chief in the service’s 107-year history” – MI5 being Britain’s domestic intelligence service. The article was co-written by Johnson and headlined on Russia – what else – as a “growing threat” to the U.K. The Guardian would follow up with exclusive interviews with the heads of MI6 and with the U.K.’s most senior counter-terrorism officer. All were softball interviews in which the British security state was allowed to set the agenda.

Under Viner, a host of investigative journalists with experience of covering national security issues departed. A former Guardian journalist told Declassified U.K.,

“Effective scrutiny of the security and intelligence agencies – epitomized by the Snowden scoops but also many other stories – appears to have been abandoned… [It] sometimes seems the Guardian is worried about upsetting the spooks.”

Instead, the paper has focused on targeting those who are in the crosshairs of the intelligence services – most obviously Julian Assange, whose publication of leaked official documents in 2010 exposed U.S. and U.K. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent years, as the U.S. has sought Assange’s extradition so it can lock him out of sight for up to 175 years, the Guardian has run a series of barely credible stories that appear to have been supplied to it by the intelligence services and clearly serve its interests. Those hit-pieces include articles written by Carole Cadwalladr and Luke Harding, and were discussed in part one.

As Declassified U.K. noted, the Guardian was also key to injecting credibility into a relentless media campaign to smear the then left-wing leader of Britain’s Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn. He was variously portrayed as a national security threat, a traitor and an antisemite. Again, the fingerprints of the security services were all over these stories. They had begun with an anonymous army general, interviewed by The Sunday Times, warning that the military “would use whatever means possible, fair or foul, to prevent” Corbyn becoming prime minister. The Guardian’s uncritical echoing of evidence-free claims of an antisemitism problem in Labour under Corbyn was particularly damaging because so many of the paper’s readers were traditional Labour voters.

Disappearing neo-Nazis

The intelligence services’ cultivation of ties with journalists in an increasingly digital, more defused media environment is likely to be as covert as ever. But there are occasional, brief glimpses of what they may be up to. As mentioned in part one, it emerged in 2018 that national clusters of journalists, along with academics and politicians, were working with the opaque Integrity Initiative, a covert operation supposedly against “Russian disinformation” supported by the British Foreign Office and Defense Ministry. The Initiative’s registered address in Scotland turned out to be an abandoned, semi-derelict mill. Its real offices were eventually tracked down to a plush part of central London.

The Integrity Initiative’s British cluster included some well-known names in British journalism. Its real aim was – once again – to paint independent media and left-wing politicians critical of Western wars as in the pocket of Russia and Vladimir Putin. The Initiative was also found to have been involved in efforts to bring down Corbyn.

The media’s memory-holing of the Snowden revelations and its silence on Assange’s persecution – despite the very obvious threat posed to a free press – are themselves an indication of the degree to which the establishment media share the aims of the security state and are complicit in its narrative manipulations.

Coverage of the West’s recent proxy wars have provided further clues as to the extent of that collusion. It has been hard to ignore the establishment media’s uncritical promotion of narratives in Syria and Ukraine that look suspiciously like they were crafted by Western intelligence agencies. That has involved some stunning about-turns in their coverage that should set alarm bells ringing with observers.

In Ukraine, that has been evident in the media’s frantic efforts to obscure its own recent concerns about neo-Nazi groups like the Azov Battalion being integrated into the Ukrainian military, and portray any attempt to remind us of that earlier coverage as Russian disinformation.

Those maneuvers echo similarly desperate moves by the establishment media to obscure the fact that groups allied to al-Qaeda and Islamic State ended up comprising the bulk of the “rebel” forces in Syria. Only a short time earlier, both had been regarded as the West’s most fearsome foes.

Russia was revived as the West’s number one enemy about the time the media – and the intelligence services – found themselves unable to continue fearmongering about Islamist extremists because those groups needed to be transformed into our allies in Syria.

In both conflicts, it has been hard not to notice too how easily the establishment media has been swayed not by facts on the ground but by what look more like branding exercises guided by Western marketing firms.

Ukraine’s president, Volodomyr Zelensky, reportedly took time out of his schedule last week to brainstorm with “marketing professionals” at Cannes about how to use “creative ingenuity” to keep the war in the spotlight, after earlier opening the film festival. Last week too, he made an appearance on a giant video screen at the popular Glastonbury music festival in the U.K. On each occasion, wore his now-signature designer wartime outfits.

White Helmets ringfenced

Similarly, the White Helmets have received unquestioning adulation from the Western media. A hagiographic documentary on their work was even awarded an Oscar. Yet the mysterious emergency rescue outfit appears only to work in areas of Syria controlled by jihadist groups the West has previously opposed for their human rights abuses and mistreatment of women and girls.

Liberal media has gone all-out to ringfence the White Helmets – and their jihadist allies – from journalistic and academic scrutiny. Independent journalists brave, or foolish, enough to try to break through this cordon sanitaire have found themselves smeared, and accused of spreading disinformation on Russia’s behalf. Western intelligence agencies have every incentive to malign these critics because the White Helmets are a central pillar upholding claims that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, assisted by Russia, used chemical weapons against his own people in rebel-held areas.

If the White Helmets are a credible, neutral humanitarian movement – a Syrian version of the Red Cross – then the media might be justified in treating their claims of atrocities by Assad uncritically. But if they are really a partisan rescue service involved in rebranding Islamist extremism to promote the goal of Western-sponsored regime change in Syria, then the media needs to be skeptical and scrutinize their every assertion. The establishment media has adopted the first approach, ignoring any indication that the White Helmets might not be quite what they seem.

That failure has been thrown into especially stark relief by the media’s extraordinary refusal to publicize the testimonies of whistleblowing inspectors at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Those whistleblowers say their findings at one site of an alleged chemical attack, at Douma in 2018, were rewritten by their own management under threats from the U.S.

The media’s silence is all the more astounding given that Jose Bustani, a former head of the OPCW, and Hans von Sponeck, the U.N.’s former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, have found the whistleblowers’ allegations credible and urged that they be investigated.

The story, if confirmed, has the potential to unravel much of the narrative in Syria jointly promoted by the Western intelligence services and the establishment media. Which is why any effort to examine it more closely is being crushed. If Douma was a staged attack rather than one carried out by Assad’s forces, as the whistleblowing inspectors’ evidence suggests, it would implicate the White Helmets in the deception – and possibly the murder of the civilians alleged to have been gassed in Douma. It could also mean that other chemical attacks assigned to Assad might have been the responsibility of jihadists.

That is why the stakes are so high. It may also explain why there has been an incessant stream of stories in liberal media outlets shoring up the Western narrative by smearing once again as a Russian asset any journalist tackling the subject in a critical manner.

The media’s defamation campaigns have been assisted by various, “expert” bodies, seemingly cut-outs covertly funded by Western governments, such as Bellingcat, the Institute for Strategic Studies (the parent “charity” of the Integrity Initiative) and, most recently, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. These organizations produce smear-laden reports on which the establishment media builds its hollow case against independent media.

This month, the Guardian ran the latest of its evidence-free smear pieces designed to silence independent journalists and protect the White Helmets. The article accuses independent journalists of being part of a supposedly Russian-backed disinformation “network”. The piece implicitly discredits the OPCW whistleblowers by ignoring their existence and instead attributing their claims to “a core of 28 conspiracy theorists”.

Despite its grand claims, the paper provides no evidence of any collusion between Russia and the named independent journalists, or even between the journalists themselves, that might justify labeling them a network, let alone a Russian-backed one. Nor does the article provide any examples of what disinformation these journalists are supposedly spreading – apart from their questioning of the actions of Western states.

Aaron Maté, who is named, has been one of the main channels by which the OPCW whistleblowers have been able to make public their concerns about the organization’s tampering with their findings in its final report. And yet the Guardian makes no mention that Maté’s supposed “disinformation” is actually sourced directly from OPCW inspectors themselves. The Guardian article is, in fact, exactly what it accuses independent media of being: pure disinformation (from Western intelligence agencies).

The BBC has been ready with the smears too. It ran an extraordinarily lengthy, though flimsy, podcast series trying to shore up the humanitarian credentials of James Le Mesurier, a former U.K. military intelligence officer who founded the White Helmets in 2014. Shortly after he had been accused of embezzling donor money, Le Mesurier fell to his death from an apartment in an Istanbul building, in what was judged to be a suicide.

The BBC series, “Mayday”, however, spent an inordinate amount of time trying to deflect attention from these facts. Instead, it sanitized Le Mesurier and the White Helmets’ reputation, implied independent journalists and academics had tipped Le Mesurier into suicide through their criticisms, and, like the Guardian, sought to discredit the OPCW whistleblowers.

MI6 could not have done a better job. When Maté posed a series of questions over the programme’s “smears, gaping omissions, leaps of logic, and factual errors”, Mayday’s producers went to the ground. The BBC journalist who fronted Mayday, Chloe Hadjimatheou, repeated the formula last month for BBC Radio 4 with “Ukraine: The Disinformation War”, covering much the same ground and defaming many of the same targets. Once again, Hadjimatheou has failed to respond to criticisms.

Real-world Marvel Universe

There are a whole raft of reasons why journalists working for the establishment media end up parroting the narratives of Western intelligence agencies engaged in an information war against critics that very much include independent media.

It would be naïve in the extreme to imagine that the establishment media severed its well-documented connections with the intelligence services back in the 1970s. Some journalists are doubtless still on the payroll and operating covertly, even if that number is probably small. Most, however, don’t need payment. By temperament and circumstance, they are extremely susceptible to the West’s sophisticated influence campaigns.

The tools at the disposal of Western security services, so ready to accuse Russia of using troll farms, grow all the time. The West has its own troll armies, enthusiastically spreading the work of intelligence cut-outs like Bellingcat and the Institute for Strategic Studies.

Last year, Newsweek revealed an undercover army of at least 60,000 operatives run by the Pentagon that used “masked identities” to exert influence on the digital world: “The explosion of Pentagon cyber warfare, moreover, has led to thousands of spies who carry out their day-to-day work in various made-up personas, the very type of nefarious operations the United States decries when Russian and Chinese spies do the same.”

There are a variety of reasons why journalists working for establishment media outlets so readily follow scripts written for them by Western intelligence agencies. In part, journalists successful in establishment media are products of lengthy selection processes effected through their upbringing, social class and education. Those who reach influential media positions are sympathetic to, and easily swayed by, the kinds of narratives that present Western states as the good guys fighting evil foes and Western crimes as unfortunate mistakes that cannot be compared to the atrocities committed by enemies. Like the public, Western journalists are socialized to interpret events as though we inhabit a real-world Marvel universe where our side is a mix of Captain America and Iron Man. As Noam Chomsky once observed to the BBC’s Andrew Marr during an interview:

“I’m not saying you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that, if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.”

In any case, Western journalists work inside large media corporations where they will not survive long unless they submit – mostly unconsciously – to the dominant corporate culture. Further proving Chomsky’s point, Marr claimed on another occasion that his “Organs of Opinion were formally removed” when he began working at the BBC. It was an extreme, fundamentalist view that suggested Marr believed he and the BBC – funded by, and accountable to, the British state – were able to divine absolute, eternal truths that they then disinterestedly passed on to viewers.

In fact, as the consolidation of corporate America continues, the situation for critically-minded journalists working in the establishment media grows ever worse. Media corporations have diversified their interests in ways that entrench them even more deeply in a neocolonial ideology that seeks both absolute control over global resources and their exploitation, and profits from the war, surveillance and security industries that enforce that control.

It is no accident that media corporations produce Hollywood fare that encourages the Western public to identify with superheroes and reduces the world to black-and-white struggles. Independent journalists trying to question this simple-minded narrative are easily cast as Thanos.

Read More:

https://www.mintpressnews.com/pentagon-leaned-hollywood-sell-war-afghanistan/278568/

On top of that, any journalist trying to look into the darkest corners of Western foreign policy can be herded back into the fold through threats – if not from their editors, then from the security services, as the Guardian’s Paul Johnson experienced at first hand. The security state has plenty of tricks up its sleeve. Complicit social media can punish independent-minded reporters through its algorithms, starving them of readers. Complicit online financial services like PayPal can punish independent journalists by starving them of income, as happened to MintPress and Consortium News. And if all that fails, there is always the example of Julian Assange, whose head has been displayed on a pike in London over the past decade – as was once the norm in Medieval times for those who angered the king – initially outside the Ecuadorian embassy and now outside Belmarsh high-security prison.

In the circumstances, it is surprising that there are any journalists left who are not simply regurgitating what the intelligence services tell them. The rapid rise of independent media may soon look like a brief, digital aberration in our media landscape – unless we dig in and fight the security state to keep the spirit of critical journalism alive.

Click here to read the second part of Jonathan Cook’s investigative series entitled “How Spooks and Establishment Journalists are Circling the Wagons” as it was originally published by Mint Press News on June 30th.

*

Jonathan Cook is a MintPress contributor. Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, USA

‘a very British coup’: Jeremy Corbyn opens up about the role of the British establishment, intelligence services and the liberal media in ensuring his political downfall

Independent journalist at Declassified, Matt Kennard, recently sat down with former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to talk about the central role played by the British military and intelligence services, the liberal media – in particular the Guardian and BBC – and the Israel lobby in the undermining his tenure through a coordinated smear campaign.

Jeremy Corbyn also speaks candidly about his successor Keir Starmer, the pushback he received to halting Saudi arms sales, and the ongoing state persecution of Julian Assange.

*

A full transcript of the interview with relevant links is provided below.

Jeremy Corbyn: Thanks for coming Matt. You like the gaff here?

Matt Kennard: It’s great. It’s lovely. I grew up here incidentally so I know Finsbury Park very well.

First question is about the role of the British security services and the military establishment. The role they played while you were Labour leader from 2015 to 2020. I went through in article written in 2019, all the different instances that they were briefing to the media.

Some very sort of shocking articles to read in hindsight. One, soon after you became leader, was a serving military general saying that the army would take direct action to stop you becoming Prime Minister. Were you aware of all this action by the intelligence and military establishment while you’re a leader, and what do you think it tells you about British democracy?

JC: I was obviously aware of the articles, and we had a daily press briefing from our office which summarised all the articles that were important to us. And I also noticed that it was particularly the Daily Telegraph that often carried leading stories apparently from “sources in the intelligence services” which I was attacked or undermined from. When that story came out shortly after I was elected leader in 2015 – from apparently a serving military officer – we obviously challenged it straight away, and they said it was a rogue element: it didn’t speak for anybody else etc, etc, etc. But I thought it was a sort of shot across the bow as a warning to me saying ‘look, you might have a different view of the world’ – when I’d laid out an international strategy based on peace, based on human rights, based on democracy, based on fair trade rather than the very pro-American defence and foreign policy we’d adopted. So I knew this was going to lead to attacks and it certainly did.

It also served as a warning to a lot of our supporters just what we were up against in challenging the foreign policy establishment, and the up-till-then cosy agreement between both front benches in parliament to support the same foreign policy. So yes, was I shocked? Yes. Was I surprised? No. And I tell you what was going through my mind was Harry Perkins in [A Very] British Coup. [available to watch on Channel 4]

MK: Just to ask specifically about MI5 and MI6 as well, because there was a meeting with each institution that you had – both were leaked. The evidence about the meetings was leaked to the press. Can you talk about those meetings, and talk about the leaks? And did you feel that those two institutions were also trying to undermine your leadership of the Labour Party?

JC: I’ve had some issues with them in the past on, for example, the ‘spy cops’ inquiry that’s going on at the moment. A number of MPs were clearly under police surveillance through the ’70s and ’80s. I wasn’t an MP in the ’70s, but I was clearly under some form of surveillance throughout that time. The ‘spy cops’ inquiry is still going on. Peter Hain was labelled as well because of his activities in the anti-apartheid movement and others.

And at one stage I was offered my police file if I accepted it in its redacted or limited form. They said you can have all the information that we think you should have, but you’ve got to accept that’s all you’re going to get if you receive the file.

MK: When would this be?

JC: This would be long before I became leader. This was when the issue came up of the surveillance that MPs had been put under. I refused. I said I want the whole file or nothing. I’m not prepared to accept your idea that you can edit out what information you’ve got on me.

And the ‘spy cops’ inquiry is still going on and I have a volunteer legal representative at the inquiry on my behalf who’s following everything. And that’s the policing – that’s the police ‘spy cops’ inquiry. Which, is it the same as MI5/MI6? Not exactly, but there’s clearly a link within it.

On the meetings we had, they were obviously private meetings. We obviously prepared for them and went there. We absolutely did not inform or leak about the meeting at all to anybody. And I instructed my office that this meeting had to be treated as completely confidential and it was. It was leaked by them. And it was leaked in a way to undermine that somehow or other I’d been summoned, and given a dressing down. That was not the nature of the meeting at all.

The meeting was a discussion in which they discussed various parts of the world and various issues: none of which was new to me, none of which was a surprise to me. It was about the role of ISIS. It was about the war in Syria. It was about post-Iraq war, Afghanistan and so on. They were well aware of my views on those conflicts and very well aware of what I’d said and acted about it at the time. They acknowledged I had a different view from themselves and the government and the meetings were yeah – they were pretty frank. Were they aggressive? No.

It was an intelligent discussion. Obviously it was all recorded. Obviously it was all then leaked out as a way to be deliberately undermining of me.

The same thing happened with some senior civil servants as well. There was apparently a conference of civil servants of some sort, which a briefing was given to the media by somebody that I was mentally unstable and not fit to hold a senior office. Bear in mind I’ve been an MP for 39 years. It’s abusive. It is nasty. It is obviously completely wrong.

Jon Trickett and I then raised that with the Cabinet Secretary – he [Jon Trickett] was the shadow Cabinet Office Minister – and we had a quite long and very frank discussion with the Cabinet Secretary at the time in which he apologized on behalf of the civil service; said it was nonsense, it was wrong and I was clearly not in any bad state whatsoever, and that they would leave no stone unturned in finding out who had made these comments.

Well there’s obviously a lot of stones! And these stones are still being slowly turned over and no more has been heard of it ever since then.

And so we did challenge all of this stuff, all the time, but I have to say within the totality of political argument and debate this was dramatic, of course, but it wasn’t the only thing because any studies of the print media and the broadcast media from 2015 onwards would show a steady stream of abuse against me, against my family, against the Labour Party, against people in my constituency, and so on. And we obviously challenged as much as we could all the issues that were thrown at us. That’s what we do. But you can spend your whole life rebutting what are actually ludicrous stories.

And, you know, some of my team (Seamus Milne, James Schneider and others) would often spend a whole day rebutting one crazy story about me, after another, after another. And so I always felt that we had to hit back by going round them, hence we developed a very strong social media platform. I have 2.5 million followers on Twitter. We did that through Twitter, through Facebook, through all the other social media outlets.

But it’s also designed to sap the confidence of people who were Labour supporters. And remember, that despite all this Labour Party membership went up from two hundred thousand ultimately to six hundred thousand.

And I made it my business to be travelling the country the whole time. To be putting an alternative point of view. I didn’t make an awful lot of speeches about foreign policy. Most of my work was on social justice, economic issues and environmental issues, and I attended hundreds of events all over the country all the time, as a way of enthusing and keeping our supporters together.

Now, if I may say so, this actually had a very important effect. At the start of the surprise 2017 election. It was a surprise when it was called. I mean anybody who says they knew it was coming is the talking nonsense. Nobody knew was coming. I’m not even sure Theresa May knew it was coming till the day before she announced it. That [meant] we went from 24% in the polls to 41% in the polls during a campaign.

Why? Because of broadcasting rules which meant I had to at least have my voice heard on the media, rather than the media describing what I’d said, or hadn’t said. And we were able to enthuse and mobilise our supporters.

The worst time wasn’t when I was a newly elected leader in 2015. The worst time was the latter part of 2017–2018 when the abuse on me piled on big time. After our unfortunately not quite winning the 2017 election, and then I spoke at Glastonbury, and we had a summer in which I said to the party: ‘you’ve got to be ready for an election [because] we’re demanding an election as soon as possible; the government doesn’t have majority [and] can’t govern’. And I did a whole summer of events all over the country, straight on the back of the 2017 election. It was after that that the abuse piled on and on and on. And the abuse was echoed by some elements within the Parliamentary Labour Party [PLP}.

MK: And also within the military and intelligence establishment. In that article I saw that there was a massive pick up in attacks.

I just wanted to ask one final question on that. You said, you were aware of it – you knew these leaks were happening. What does it say about British democracy that a democratically elected leader of the major opposition party is having MI5, MI6 and the military briefing against him in the media? And that’s what we know about, there might have been other things going on. How worried should we be about the implications of that for British democracy?

JC: We should be very worried about it. First of all, I’m not the only leader that’s ever been briefed against by the intelligence services. Harold Wilson, who had different politics to me in many ways, but nevertheless was under the greatest suspicion by the intelligence services, and I very well remember the open talk about a coup against Harold Wilson in the late 1960s when he was prime minister. It’s recorded both in his book The Governance of Britain and also particularly in the diaries of Tony Benn and Barbara Castle. It’s worth looking at those things. And then Wilson was very different to me. He supported the Americans in Vietnam, probably very reluctantly, but he did, and he kept nuclear weapons, and so on.

The question of the accountability of a security services is always an interesting one. So when the Select Committee system was set up in Britain in 1970, there was a Parliamentary Select Committee appointed for all government departments, and then there was the Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliament. Now all other Select Committees, in those days members were appointed on the basis of party alignment – so there was a mirror of the strength of parties in parliament on each Select Committee – and the Chair of the Select Committee was elected by the members and obviously a Select Committee is quite powerful because it can summon any witnesses; it has quasi-legal powers in doing that, except the Intelligence Committee, which is appointed by the Prime Minister and is chaired by an appointee of the Prime Minister and still is. It’s been excluded from all the democratic processes.

Now I used to do lecturing for the civil service college on parliamentary structures, parliamentary accountability. And I enjoyed doing those lectures because it was very interesting having a discussion, usually with younger newly recruited civil servants, about the concept of democratic accountability, of public services, and where parliament fits into all this. And I’ve made a lot of statements, contributions, and so on, both at those lectures and in debates in parliament and so on, about the need for accountability of the services.

And then the question came up later of a War Powers Act, which – we drafted a War Powers Bill – Shami Chakrabarti wrote it. [It’s] very good. And the immediate question was: would this include special operations? In other words, I was saying that there had to be parliamentary approval for overseas operations by the British military, which is actually pretty normal in most democratic societies; even the USA has a as a War Powers Act. And they said, ‘well would this include special operations?’ I said, ‘yeah, of course, it would.’

Emily Thornbury supported me on that, and she raised the same question. The message I was being given was you’re overstepping the mark: you are an elected politician, but there’s a whole area of the state that you really should not be in charge of and should not be questioning. And I did ask for my own file. I’m still waiting.

MK: It wasn’t just the UK intelligence and military and political establishment that was that was working to stop you becoming Prime Minister. You must have been aware that when Mike Pompeo came in 2019 (US Secretary of State, then formerly the CIA director), he was recorded in a private meeting saying, he would do, or the US would do their quote “level best” to stop you becoming Prime Minister. What did you think when you read that? I mean that is such blatant interference in the democratic process in Britain. Not only that, it was barely covered in the media, compared to interference from other countries.

JC: We have a supine media in this country. The British self-confidence of saying we’ve got the best media in the world, the best broadcasting in the world, the best democracy in the world, is nonsense. Utter complete nonsense.

We have a media that’s supine. That self-censors. That accepts D-notices. Doesn’t challenge them. And, for the vast majority of the mainstream media, haven’t lifted so much as a little finger in support or defence of Julian Assange. And so the idea that we’ve got this brave British media; they’re always exposing the truth: it’s utter nonsense.

Even the liberal supposedly left-leading papers like the Guardian; where are they in all of this? Nowhere. Where were they kicking off about Pompeo’s remarks? Nowhere. We obviously kicked off about it, protested and so on and so on, and we’re just told it was private briefing, etc, etc, etc. It wasn’t. It was a quite deliberate message.

As one that has been a very avid student of political developments around the world – I’ve lived to see Allende elected, I’ve lived to see Allende killed, I’ve lived to see the coup in Chile, but I’ve also lived to see democracy return to Chile thanks to the bravery of the Chilean people.

And so he wasn’t alone – Pompeo in these remarks – Benjamin Netanyahu also waded in on this, and said that I must not become Prime Minister. Sorry, who has been in Benjamin Netanyahu to decide who the British Prime Minister should be?

It’s not for me to decide who the Israeli Prime Minister should be, or the American President, or anybody else for that matter. So who is he to make that kind of comment? Again, the British media just lapped it up.

Frankly many of the so-called investigative reporters in the British media are just pathetic.

MK: I agree with that.

I wanted to just [ask] this final question about this military, intelligence, Pompeo, Netanyahu theme – you mentioned Allende, and that was a CIA-backed coup which overthrew Chilean democracy in 1973. You have examples of the US-Israel killing people around the world that they don’t like.

Were you at any times worried for your safety? You were you were a kind of historic problem for the establishment.

JC: That’s past tense!

MK: [laughing] Yeah, well you obviously still are, but I mean when you were a leader, and especially after 2017 when it became a lot more real for these different interests, you were a threat; a real threat; a historic threat. Were you were you ever worried about your safety and did you have any sort of conversations about that kind of that kind of stuff?

JC: I’m probably a very difficult person to work with, because I hate being put in a silo and been cut off, And so the arguments in my office were constant about my safety.

I was more worried about the safety of my sons, my family, and so on, and my team, than anything else, and I always made sure that they were very well looked after and protected. I think it’s very easy for any public representative to cocoon themselves and cut themselves off from the people that have elected them in the first place. Very easy. You can always say security. I remember Bill Clinton once saying if I listen to all the security advice I’d never get up in the morning. I’d never do anything.

And so I continued with all the travelling and so on that I did, and most of it was by public transport; very few long car journeys, mostly quite short car journeys; and I’d walk around my constituency in the normal way. People in the local Labour Party and others got alarmed if they saw me walking around on my own, so they would spot me and then join me to look after me. Nice solidarity. And then on journeys obviously I had somebody with me. Did I feel for my own safety? Not really because I think if you start deciding that every corner you walk around somebody’s going to attack you, then you know you’re never going to do anything.

Did I receive some physical attacks? Yeah, and there’s been two court cases taken against the individuals. And is it a danger to be in public life? Yeah, I mean you’ve seen the MPs that have been killed, and you’ve seen the dangers that people face. But you cannot just become obsessed with your own safety and security. You’ve got to be out there with people. And so I was never prepared to be cocooned and that was it. I understand the tensions this created for my team around me because they were genuinely very worried for me. They were more worried for me then I was worried for myself, and they kept telling me that. But I’d rather be with ordinary people; chatting to people on the streets, cafes, etc.

I don’t go to pubs because I’m not a drinker, so I’m the world’s worst drinker. I don’t drink so no point. But do I feel under threat? Actually, you’re going around the country the number of people that say hostile comments or abuse is very, very few. On trains we used to sit together at one end of the train, all of us, because we – a small team, would be accompanying me when we’re travelling around the country – and actually there would be a sort of steady stream of people coming up the train saying, ‘can I have a word about this, that, the other’. So train journeys weren’t the least bit relaxing, but it was a nice way of meeting people.

MK: I just wanted to move on now to talk about Israel, because you were the first pro-Palestinian leader of a major party for a long, long time, which was controversial.

JC: Not sure I was the first one.

MK: Actually that’s a good question. Was Michael Foot noticeably…?

JC: I don’t recall Michael Foot ever saying very much about it, so I’m not sure on that one. Harold Wilson was certainly pro-Israel in the sense of supporting Israel in Six Day War and so on. And all others have been that.

My view is that I support the Palestinian people and to end the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. And what we had in our manifestos was full recognition of an independent State of Palestine.

MK: But in 2017, Al Jazeera released an undercover documentary which was quite revelatory about Labour Friends of Israel [LFI] particularly. They’d recorded a senior official in Labour Friends of Israel outside a pub saying that when Israel gets bad press they send us lines to take publicly. So effectively, I mean, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that it’s acting as a front for the Israeli embassy in some ways.

You, your party, the Labour Party took no action against LFI in the aftermath of that. There was action taken against an Israeli diplomat [Shai Masot] who said that he wanted to take down Alan Duncan: he was expelled from the country. Now the Labour Party took no action. Why was that, and do you regret that? And what do you think about the existence of something like LFI within a nominally progressive party?

JC: I’m not opposed to there being ‘friends’ of particular countries, or places all around the world within the party. I think that’s a fair part of the mosaic of democratic politics. What I am concerned about is the funding that goes with it, and the apparently very generous funding that Labour Friends of Israel gets from the, I presume, the Israeli government.

We did actually protest about the contents of the revelations by the Al Jazeera documentary. We did raise this. Interestingly, many of these allegations were then parroted against me by people in the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Friends of Israel group within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

But I also got a lot of support from obviously the Palestinian people. One would assume they would support on this and I had meetings with the Palestinian ambassador and so on, as I also met the Israeli ambassador on a number of occasions. And we then kick back against it – but I also got interestingly a lot of support from people in Israel, on the left in Israel, from the peace movement and human rights groups in Israel.

Should the party have taken more robust action against Labour Friends of Israel for its behaviour? Yes. Remember, this was at a time when many of the senior bureaucracy of the Labour Party were actively undermining me, and we now discover through the leaked documents which have been presented to the Forde Inquiry exactly what the extent of that was. And so did we underestimate this before I became leader? Yes, we did. We did underestimate it, and that is obviously something that I think any democratic party needs to think about. If you have officialdom in a party, you expect at the very least the best of civil servant standards in their behaviour. We didn’t get that.

MK: I just wanted to ask one question about the anti-semitism crisis within the Labour Party during your leadership, which was one of the most intense media campaigns I’ve ever witnessed and I’m nearly 40. So I think that probably goes for people who are older than me. How – this is a difficult question – but how much do you think that anti-semitism crisis was a result of your pro-Palestinian political position?

JC: Very largely that is the case.

I have spent my life fighting racism in any form, in any place whatsoever. My parents spent their formative years fighting the rise of Nazism in Britain and that is what I’ve been brought up doing. And when in the 1970s the National Front were on the march in Britain, I was one of the organisers of the big Wood Green demonstration to try to stop the National Front marching through. And I was part of the campaign against racism at the time of the rise the anti-Nazi league and everybody else, and we worked with AJEX, Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women. We worked with the Jewish community on that, as we worked with all the other communities: Bengali community, Afro-Caribbean community, all of them on this. We saw the fight against racism as one that affects all communities.

And somehow or other, I was accused of being anti-semitic. The allegations against me were foul, dishonest and utterly disgusting, and appalling from people who should know better and do know better. People that have known me for 40 years never once complained about anything I’d ever said or done in terms of anti-racism until I became leader of the Labour Party; interesting coincidence of timing. Disgusting allegations, which obviously we sought to rebut at all times, and I’ll be forever grateful for the support given by Jewish socialists and many Jewish members of the Labour Party all over the country, and of course, the local Jewish community in my constituency. It was personal. It was vile. It was disgusting, and it remains so. I will always spend my life defending people against racist attacks.

Look, anti-semitism was used historically against the Jewish people: Jewish people expelled from Europe; expelled from Britain; returned during the Cromwellian period; and then the anti-semitism that was written large into literature, into history, into culture, into life in Britain, was then exploited big time in France in Germany, and in Britain, and then in Germany in the worst case, and that ended up with the Holocaust. So we’ve got to be very well aware of where racism leads people to and I am very well aware of that.

MK: I agree, which makes it even more depraved how it’s been instrumentalised as an issue to destroy critics of the Israeli state. And can I just ask you quickly about that, because it was a particularly extreme in your case, but you see it again and again with people who are supporting the Palestinians. That this is a weapon which is used. They’re accused of being anti-semitic and it’s a very hard thing to fight back from because it’s used as a slur. Can you just talk a little bit about that, the tactic…?

JC: The tactic is that you say that somebody is intrinsically anti-semitic and it sticks, and then the media parrot it and repeat it the whole time, and then the abuse appears on social media, the abusive letters appear, the abusive phone calls appear, and all of that. And it’s very horrible and very nasty and is designed to be very isolating, and designed to also take up all of your energies in rebutting these vile allegations, which obviously we did. But it tends to distract away from the fundamental message about peace, about justice, about social justice, about economy, and all of that.

And I have been nine times to Israel and Palestine in my life. I’ve met many people in Israel. I supported Mordecai Vanunu who was put in prison after he’d revealed Israel was making nuclear weapons. And I have many meetings with people in human rights groups, and so on, in Israel.

Am I critical of Israel’s occupation the West Bank? Absolutely. Am I critical of the encirclement of Gaza? Absolutely. Of the settlement policy. And I will continue to hold that position and so some of the allegations then become amazing. I mean I was accused of condoning anti-semitic behaviour because I wrote a forward to the re-publication of a book on imperialism that was first published in 1903.

MK: I think it surprised a lot of people that within the media, the Guardian was at the forefront of the attacks on you. Did that surprise you, and what does it tell us about the Guardian’s role in British society and the British media?

JC: I have absolutely no illusions in the Guardian. None whatsoever. My mum brought me up to read the Guardian. She said it’s a good paper you can trust. You can’t.

After their treatment of me, I do not trust a Guardian. There are good people who work in the Guardian. There are some brilliant writers in the Guardian, but as a paper it is a tool of the British establishment. It’s a mainstream establishment paper. So as long as everyone in the left gets it clear: when you buy the Guardian you’re buying an establishment paper; when you buy the Telegraph you’re buying an establishment paper; Mail and so on. So once you’ve got past that hurdle, you can then develop a critical thinking about anything. There are many articles in the Guardian I like, and agree with, and support, but as a paper I’m not very surprised.

I had a meeting with the Guardian editorial team during the 2015 leadership campaign. It was very interesting. I was invited to the Guardian which has a sort of daily meeting (I think it’s daily may be weekly) of all the staff, who talk about news agendas and what’s going on, and so on; and then a smaller meeting of the senior editorial team. And so the meeting with the entirety of the staff was fine – a lot of young people were there. It was interesting. It was funny. It was zany, very pleasant. I was very well received, and they said, ‘okay what’s your pitch to be leader of the Labour Party?’ and I set out: anti-austerity and social justice and challenging economic inequality, and environmental politics, and international peace, and justice and so on. Some of the questions were quite tough. Fine, that’s okay. It was very respectful. It was very nice meeting.

We then had a meeting with the editorial team – a bit different. It was like I was being warned. Like I was being warned by this team of actually incredibly self-important people. It was a bit like the Today programme, which at its worst thinks it’s running the whole world; at its best is a very investigative programme. Guardian is a bit the same. And so was I surprised? No, and I’ve had to live with the behaviour of the Guardian ever since.

But the Guardian is in a unique position, because it is the paper most read by Labour Party members, is the most important in forming opinion on the centre and left in British politics and they are very well aware of that, which is why I think an analysis of the Guardian’s treatment of the time that I was leader of the party needs to be made. Because they, and the BBC had more unsourced reporting of anti-semitic criticisms surrounding me than any other paper, including the Mail, the Telegraph and The Sun.

The only paper that gave what can really call moderately fair coverage was the Daily Mirror actually. The Daily Mirror didn’t always agree with me, and said so, and would make public criticisms, but also did accept articles from me, and did accept the stuff that we sent them, and they were quite good at reporting the sort of social justice campaigns that that we put forward.

The Daily Express, which is in the same stable as the Mirror now – but I had one let’s just finish on this point – a fascinating evening: I was invited to a randomly-selected invitation-only event of readers of the Express and the Mirror in a room together, where I would take questions from them. Anyway, you could sort of very quickly tell who read the Express and who read the Mirror from the questions that came up. They weren’t seated separately, or anything like that, you could pick it up straight away. But it was actually quite good meeting. It was quite robust. I mean some of the Express questions were a bit, well, I thought slightly off-the-wall actually. But you know it was okay. I don’t mind that kind of – I enjoy that kind of political debate. I’ll take that. That’s okay. I mean MPs should be challenged. Political leaders should be challenged. Accountability is important. You can’t cut yourself off.

MK: I just wanted to ask about Julian Assange, because that also relates to the Guardian. Because obviously he was an early collaborator with the Guardian and then they’ve now turned on him massively – they’ve run a campaign against him effectively for many years now.

Can you just talk about the significance of Julian Assange being in Belmarsh maximum security prison for three years now? We’re on the eve probably of Priti Patel’s decision on whether to extradite him to the US to spend his life in a supermax prison in the desert there. What do you think Julian Assange has given to the world, and why do you think the establishment here, and the establishment in the US, is so keen to silence him forever, or leave him dead?

JC: Nelson Mandela was put into maximum security life imprisonment after Rivonia treason trial of 1964. All through the 60s and the 70s, into much later on – 80s even – Nelson Mandela was a lonely figure supported by a few people around Africa and around the world. He was not a popular iconic figure at all. He became so later on. He became the iconic figure in the fight against apartheid, and when he was released and came to British parliament, there were some amazing speeches from people who had apparently been incredibly active in the apartheid movement, but somehow or other I’d missed their participation in all the anti-apartheid activities I’ve been to. You know how it goes. That’s all right.

Julian Assange. What’s his crime? What is his crime? Julian Assange managed to collect information on what the US was doing; US foreign policy was doing; its illegal activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and much else. In the great traditions of a journalist who never reveals their sources – very important – and he was pursued because of this. And as we know, eventually sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, but was unable to get out of it.

We then discovered that all that time in the Ecuadorian embassy, there were the charges against him from Sweden, which were eventually dropped, and there was the surveillance of him by apparently an independent security company, but in reality, it was working for the Americans.

And he was initially welcomed by the Guardian, supported by the Guardian. The Guardian published all of his stuff, and then dropped him. And have continued to drop him. And I have been on many of the demonstrations outside the courts in Britain over the last few months while he’s been his case has been brought up again and again and again about removal to the USA or not. And there’s huge numbers of media there from all over the world. One day I did interviews for about 15 broadcast medias all over the world. Where were the British? None. Not one, apart from social media. Not one.

So what is it about the British media that they cannot bring themselves to the biggest story about freedom-to-know in the world today, on their very doorstep. They could walk from their offices to the high court and get the story. No. And it says everything about the supine nature of the mainstream media in Britain.

It’s not surprising that mistrust of the print media is the highest in Europe in Britain. That the sales of all newspapers are falling very rapidly, and people make their own news through social media, which has its pitfalls and has its dangers.

And so Julian Assange is now in a maximum security prison. He’s not convicted of anything. There is no unspent conviction that he’s got to serve time in prison for. And in Belmarsh – I’ve been there to see prisoners in the past – is a horrible, horrible place, and he’s there with all the dangers to his health that goes with that. And so, yes, I do support Julian Assange, and I was very pleased when JeanLuc Mélenchon made a very interesting statement yesterday that should the left candidates win a majority in the French national assembly he’d be welcome there.

Also Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the President of Mexico, raised the voice in support of him. Did try and persuade President Trump, just before he left office, to drop the case against Assange. And when I was in Mexico in January of this year, I took part in the mañaneras, the daily press conference that the President holds, which is quite dramatic affair, it lasts about two hours and there’s videos and films, and chat, and discussion, and so on: it’s a different form of government – and he raised the question again of Julian Assange, and made a very passionate appeal saying that Mexico would welcome Julian Assange, and would give him citizenship if he required it.

MK: Sir Keir Starmer was in your shadow cabinet and then quit during the what’s been called dubs ‘the chicken coup’. He was then reappointed.

JC: He wasn’t in the shadow cabinet at the time of the coup, he came later.

MK: I thought he was.

JC: He was a spokesperson on immigration issues, and then joined later on.

MK: So he was your shadow Brexit Secretary, which was a senior role within your shadow cabinet. Were you aware of his politics which have been evinced since he became leader in 2020, and has his move of the Labour Party to the right shocked you?

JC: I appointed Keir Starmer to the shadow cabinet after my re-election as leader of the party in 2016. Remember I was first elected with 248 thousand votes. I was re-elected less than a year later with over 300 000 votes. And I explained to the Parliamentary Labour Party – not that they wanted to hear it – that I actually had a mandate from the party members. Most of the Parliamentary Labour Party believed the leader of the party should be selected by the Parliamentary Labour Party, as historically it was the case.

I wanted to reach out within the parliamentary party, so I appointed what I believe to be a balanced shadow cabinet, and expected everybody to work together within that shadow cabinet, and to behave in a proper manner. I appointed Keir Starmer to the shadow of Brexit position because of his legal knowledge and skills, and the importance of saying to the parliamentary labour party, ‘look, I understand the makeup of the PLP, this is why I’ve appointed this broad and diverse shadow cabinet.’ Did it make it easy to manage? No. Was there lots of debates within the shadow cabinet? You bet there were.

I didn’t stop those debates. I encouraged those debates and said look we’ve got to move forward on this – and come back to your early question in a second – but I have to say as we developed this very difficult position over Brexit, where we had a 60:40 split of party supporters voting remain to leave, and we had the view that we had to somehow or other bring people together – I tried to unite people around the social and economic message saying if you’re poor and up against it, however you voted, you need a Labour government that’s going to redistribute wealth and power.

Was I close to Keir Starmer? No, I’d never met him before he became a member of parliament. I obviously knew who he was. He’s a neighbouring MP. Had we had much contact? No, not really, and our conversations when he was in the shadow cabinet were largely about the minutiae of Brexit various agreements, and the many meetings that we had in Brussels with officials there including Michel Barnier. We met him on a number of occasions. So beyond that, apart from occasional chats about Arsenal football club, that was about it.

Was I aware of everything about his past? No, not really. Should I have been? Yeah, but then there are so many things one could and should be aware of that one isn’t. I noticed it when he stood for election for leader of the party, he was very clear that he accepted the 2019 manifesto and its contents, and put forward his 10 points there. Those seem to have been parked now, shall we say.

And then, the response to the HRC report, which I gave which I thought was reasonable and balanced, was met with the immediate suspension of my membership, which the media were told before I was. First I heard about it was when a journalist stopped me in the street as I was leaving the Brickworks Community Centre (it’s a community centre just near here) which I’m a trustee of, and I was told my membership been suspended, and I thought the journalist [was playing] a joke; he was winding me up. I said, ‘what?’ He said, ‘no you’ve been suspended.’ I said, ‘No, no, what are you talking about.’ But it was true.

Anyway, I obviously appealed against that and won that appeal unanimously, reinstated unanimously, endorsed by the NEC [Labour’s National Executive Committee] unanimously, and then my membership of the parliamentary party was suspended, and there’s been no process taken against me by the parliamentary party.

It makes my constituents very angry. They say look Jeremy we voted for you as our Labour MP so why…? We’ve got confidence in you. We have no problem with you. We don’t think you’ve done anything wrong, and we welcome your work as our local MP. And I’m very proud to represent the people of this community.

So was I angry about it. Yeah, of course, but I have always in politics tried to keep off the personal attack and so on and so on. It’s very tempting, but I remember saying this during the 2019 election. I said look it’s really tempting for me to have a go at Boris Johnson personally, he had a go at me personally, and it can be quite funny, it can be quite witty for the first time. Second time I think, oh god, here we go again. Third time, nobody’s listening, nobody’s interested. Politicians having to go to each other, calling each other names: it doesn’t get anybody anywhere. It don’t put bread on the table. And so it is important that we campaign on political points and political principles.

MK: Will you stand as an independent at the next election if it doesn’t get resolved?

JC: Look, I am focused on getting the whip back at the present time.

MK: So what should be the major issue in terms of UK foreign policy right now is the critical support we provide to Saudi Arabia as it launches – what it has launched since 2015 – one of the most brutal wars in modern times, which has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. It’s a brutal air war, full of war crimes including attacks on hospitals, schools, but also a naval blockade which has strangled the country and pushed millions of children to the brink of starvation.

Interestingly there was a vote in parliament, which was brought by your leadership in 2016, where a hundred of your own MPs either voted against it or abstained in calling for the withdrawal of UK support for Saudi Arabia. So could you just talk a bit about why you think there’s such a consensus across the establishment – and I’m including parts of the Labour Party in that – of support for Saudi Arabia, which is indefensible, not only because of the immediate war, but also it’s an extremist Wahhabi dictatorship which exports terrorism around the world and extremism. Why is there this consensus in the British establishment that we must support Saudi Arabia?

JC: Saudi Arabia and Britain have a very close economic, political and military relationship. It’s not new, it goes right back to the establishment of Saudi Arabia, which was a British invention in the beginning. I mean you need to read the whole history of the whole of the Middle East to realise the malevolent influence of British colonial policies within the whole region. That is well documented, but needs to be better understood. And I might just say, as an aside, one of my passions is to improve history teaching in the totality of our education system to understand the brutality of colonialism and imperialism.

Saudi Arabia is a big recipient of arms from western countries: USA, Britain, France and so on. Massive. Obviously, incredibly wealthy because of historically high oil prices going back to the 70s, and indeed their big time wealth grew over the big hike in oil prices in 73–74; the world oil crisis at that time. Major buyer of British arms. The contract that Tony Blair signed with them was massive. 2 billion, I think is the figure that was total at that time, which was massive at that time and it’s continued ever since.

Some of us have been very concerned about human rights in Saudi Arabia, and as a officer of the all-party human rights group, we’ve had many discussions about Saudi Arabia; about the executions; about discrimination; about treatment of migrant workers; about its export of terrorism around the world; and in particular the war on Yemen. And we are fuelling the war on Yemen, and indeed there are employees of British companies working in Saudi Arabia that are directing the bombing of Yemen. And Yemen is now, along with Afghanistan, the world’s worst humanitarian disaster: cholera, typhus, etc, etc. All these wholly preventable conditions [are] now rife amongst children and people in the Yemen.

And so I thought we had to have a much stronger policy on this, and so I pushed that we as a party make a declaration that we would cease all arms trade to Saudi Arabia, and I intervened to make sure that the Saudi delegation would not be welcomed as observers of the Labour Party conference. There was big pushback against that by a lot of people, and I said, ‘no, whilst they are bombing Yemen and we’re opposed to arms sales to Saudi Arabia, that stands.’

I then propose that we have an opposition day debate, where the opposition gets to choose the subject for debate and on a votable motion. It cannot be binding on a government, because it’s an opposition day motion, but it nevertheless is an important way of MPs being able to express an opinion. So I put this motion forward, which would be to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and I met with the most extraordinary levels of lobbying and opposition from Labour MPs who said, ‘it’s damaging jobs, it’s damaging major British companies: British Aerospace and others, and you cannot go ahead with this, this will cause consternation and damage within our communities and constituencies.’

I said, ‘look, I fully understand the employment implications over a long period on this, but if we’re serious about human rights, and we are, and you all are apparently, then this has to be the policy: we suspend arms sales and we protect those jobs in order to convert those industries something else.’ It does require a very big public intervention, and I made that clear to the unions, to Unite, GMB and others on that – I have to say I got a better reception in Unite than the other unions on this, but nevertheless there were obvious concerns, unions have got to represent their members. I get that. But, I also get that we are killing children in the Yemen, and so I put this policy forward on an opposition day and it was the biggest rebellion ever against my time as leader of the party.

I was appalled, saddened, disappointed by that, and it just shows how deep the pressure is of the arms trade, both on British politics, and it’s the motor force behind it all: the motor force of foreign policy is often driven by the interests of those that export arms. Look at who funds the think tanks; look at who sets up the seminars; look at who places the articles in papers saying there’s a big tension building up here. Yeah, there is a big tension in Yemen. Yes, there is a whole political history in Yemen: South Yemen, etc, Aden and so on. There’s all that there. Is there a tension with Iran? Yes, there is. We all understand that.

How do you resolve these tensions? Do you throw arms at it? Do you start another war somewhere? Do you then promote terrorism around the region knowing full well all that money spent on those arms by any one country is money not spent on schools, not spent on hospitals, not spent on housing, not spent on feeding people? The power of the arms lobby is absolutely massive in this country, in the United States, France, and in Russia, and in China, and so we have to think what kind of world would like to create.

I would have thought covid would have taught us that the danger to all of us is contagious diseases, poverty and hunger, and environmental disaster. That’s what the danger is. So why don’t we wind down the rhetoric, wind up the peace, and start supporting peace initiatives, and peace processes. All wars end in a conference. All wars end in some kind of agreement. Why don’t we cut out the middle phase and go to the end?

MK: We started Declassified in 2019 because we felt there was a lack of serious, rigorous reporting on UK foreign policy. Can you talk about the significance of the burgeoning independent media sector in Britain, and how important this is for the future of progressive politics?

JC: Declassified is very important because what you’re doing is exposing the truths. Exposing the truths about stuff that people don’t want us to know. And I think it’s important that we do that. It’s also important to challenge the way in which the mainstream media form our thinking, and it’s the growth of the technology of independent media that is so valuable to all of us that are more radical, more free-thinking, around the world.

As a young man, I was very politically active; indeed have been all my life. And I would labour the whole night through to hand print on a duplicator maybe 5 000 leaflets, and give them out the next day, and we thought, ‘wow we’re making impact!’ Social media lets you get a message to millions within seconds, or tens of millions within seconds, so everybody becomes a journalist, everybody becomes a reporter. So you then have to sift through the values or otherwise behind that, and some of it can be nonsense, some of it can be abusive and so on. But having an alternative media is very important.

So through the Peace and Justice Project we’ve set up some news clubs around the country, and these news clubs are people coming together who, yeah, they’re sceptical of both their local media regional media and national and international media, and setting up the dynamic of an alternative media. So we now have a lot of actually quite effective, robust independent media sources out on social media. They’re good, interesting. They need to cooperate together as much as they can. So that when we have big events on, we all share the same platform.

And I think it’s the development of this independent media that is so important and so critical because they can mobilise people. They can bring people together at very short notice. And I think had the independent media been as big and successful as it is now in 2003, on the eve of the outbreak of the Iraq War, we would have had even more people on those huge demonstrations. We would have been able to mobilise people in more countries, in a more effective way, particularly in the United States.

Having grown up observing the politics of the USA and this country, and being very much a part of it all, I never thought I’d see the day when somebody who calls himself a socialist would come within a whisker of winning the democrat nomination to the presidency in Bernie Sanders. How did that happen? Activism, social media and a rebirth of the whole idea of socialism.

So if I make just one last word, many people around the world call themselves socialists, and think about it and act in that kind of way. Many people around the world don’t realise they’re socialists and activists in the same way, and so through our project I don’t want us just to be defensive in saving, preventing damage, and so on and so on, to various very important services. I want us to be proactive. So we’re writing a book called Why We Are Socialists and we’re inviting anyone to contribute to it in no more than 500 words. 500 words maximum. Absolutely. 501 words don’t get printed. 500 yes. 499 definitely. And we’ve had hundreds of submissions. They’re really interesting.

People that come at it from their own personal experience. Come at it through industrial disputes, environmental campaigns, international peace campaigns, or come at it from studying history, and a more intellectual way of doing things about a sustainable world, and so on. It’s absolutely fascinating and we’re putting this book together. We’ll publish it later this year and that is, I think, the way forward. Get people to think critically for themselves. We’ve never been in an era but it’s easier to find things out. We’ve never been in an era but it’s harder to know.

Click here to read Matt Kennard’s article based around the same interview and published by Declassified on June 22nd.

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Yemen

to smear or not to smear? or how the spectre of Sir Jimmy Savile still haunts the British Establishment

When PM Boris Johnson blurted out in the House of Commons that opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer was personally responsible for his failures as former Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute Sir Jimmy Savile, few can have doubted that this was a flailing attempt to distract the world from his own desperate predicament – put succinctly, it was a dead cat strategy. But as dead cats go, raising this particular cadaver from its grave was especially ill-advised.

For one thing, as this detailed but concise Novara Media report makes abundantly clear, it was the Tories who had courted Sir Jimmy Savile for decades:

*

And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then how about this one:

Jimmy Savile canvasses for Tories

Not that the Tories acted alone. Savile had friends in all the right places: friends who would prefer that we now forget all about Sir Jimmy Savile.

*

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I want to learn the truth about Sir Jimmy Savile, the first place I turn to is always the BBC. The BBC who employed Savile throughout his entire career despite the fact that he had been (by their own account – more below) “a serial sexual abuser… [who] had attacked hundreds of women and children at various locations including hospitals, schools and the BBC.”

After his death in 2011, BBC even eulogised Savile from his graveside; forced to backtrack only when non-BBC journalists were busy disclosing the evil truth. In short, who knows the facts on Sir Jimmy Savile better than the BBC?

So here’s what their “reality check” has to say about Johnson’s House of Commons statement:

BBC Reality Check has examined Boris Johnson’s claim that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile when he was director of public prosecutions (DPP) and has found no evidence that Sir Keir was involved at any point in the decision not to charge Savile.

This is essentially the Establishment line. That of course, there is “no evidence” that Sir Keir “was involved at any point in the decision not to charge Savile.” But unlike the BBC and every other Establishment organ, I wish to attach the well-known caveat that ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. Since importantly, and as the same BBC “reality check” acknowledges and reminds us:

Sir Keir was head of the Crown Prosecution Service in 2009 when Surrey Police interviewed Savile and consulted a CPS lawyer who decided there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution to take place.

As Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer was the most senior public prosecutor in England and Wales and responsible for leading the CPS.

Is it then, as Starmer immediately countered, “a ridiculous slur, peddled by right-wing trolls”, to question his presumed involvement in failures to prosecute one of Britain’s most heinous sex offenders? Is Sir Keir entirely beyond reproach in this regard?

Frankly, without a completely transparent public inquiry into the entire Savile affair, the jury is out. And not just on the police and CPS failures, but the involvement of directors of NHS trusts, directors and senior staff at the BBC, and on the significant roles played by senior Tory politicians including Margaret Thatcher, Norman Tebbit and Edwina Currie, who was personally responsible for granting Savile full access to the high-security psychiatric hospital, Broadmoor (discussed in the NM report above). None of this will happen, obviously. There is clearly far too much at stake for any probing investigation into Savile, and finally, the state cannot prosecute itself.

Meanwhile, as the Establishment organs rush to Sir Keir’s defence, let us never forget how they treated former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, throughout the years when he was relentlessly smeared with rather blatant lies ranging from being a Kremlin spy, to a terrorist sympathiser, to an anti-Semitic racist. Not only did the BBC fail to provide any “reality checks”, but it actively disseminated these casual and “ridiculous slurs peddled by right-wing trolls”.

*

Craig Murray, the former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, who became a whistleblower on UK complicity in torture has felt the ignominy of false accusations himself. An advocate of free speech, Murray has also been a staunch ally and defender of Julian Assange.

In his latest piece, Murray not only raises quite legitimate questions surrounding the Savile investigation, but reminds us too of the pivotal role played by Starmer as Director of Public Prosecutions in keeping Assange in jail and assisting the US in its ongoing persecution (with links retained):

There is no doubt that Starmer was indeed Director of Public Prosecution and head of the Crown Prosecution Service in 2009 when it was decided that credible allegations against Jimmy Savile should not be prosecuted (after they had reached that stage already decades too late). Of course the Director of Public Prosecutions does not handle the individual cases, which are assigned to lawyers under them. But the Director most certainly is then consulted on the decisions in the high profile and important cases.

That is why they are there. It is unthinkable that Starmer was not consulted on the decision to shelve the Savile case – what do they expect us to believe his role was, as head of the office, ordering the paperclips?

When the public outcry reached a peak in 2012, Starmer played the go-to trick in the Establishment book. He commissioned an “independent” lawyer he knew to write a report exonerating him. Mistakes have been made at lower levels, lessons will be learnt… you know what it says. Mishcon de Reya, money launderers to the oligarchs, provided the lawyer to do the whitewash. Once he retired from the post of DPP, Starmer went to work at, umm,

screenshot-1671

It is remarkable that the media has never got as excited about any of the lies told by Johnson, as they have done about what is in fact a rare example of Johnson saying an interesting truth. Starmer was indeed, as Director of Public Prosecutions, responsible for the non-prosecution of Savile.

But just as Savile was to be protected over actual sex crime, Starmer knew that Assange was to be persecuted over fake sex crime. Starmer’s conduct of the Assange case was entirely corrupt.

It is important for you to understand that Assange was never charged with any sex crime in Sweden. He was wanted for questioning, after Stockholm’s chief prosecutor had decided there was no case to answer, but a prosecutor from another district had taken up the case. Assange always believed the entire thing was a ruse to get him sent from Sweden to the United States. His legal team had offered the Swedish prosecutors the chance to interview him in the Swedish Embassy back in 2011, which should have enabled the case to be closed.

Under Starmer, the Crown Prosecution Service told the Swedish prosecutors not to come to London. The emails in which they did this were destroyed, and only recovered by an FOI request at the Swedish end. You will recall that, when after a further seven long years Swedish prosecutors finally did interview Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy, it resulted in the Swedish investigation being dropped.

Had Starmer not prevented it, the Swedish investigation could have been closed in January 2011 following interview.

Then in October 2013, while Starmer was still DPP, his staff emailed Swedish prosecutors in response to reports that they wished to drop the case, saying “Don’t you dare get cold feet”. The Swedes responded explaining they did indeed wish to drop it. The Crown Prosecution Service again dissuaded them.

Why was Starmer intervening to insist a foreign state continue an investigation that state itself wished to stop, and which involved no British nationals?

I am very confident there is no other example of the British DPP interfering in an overseas investigation in this way. It certainly was nothing to do with the ostensible subject matter of the Swedish investigation, which doesn’t rate a mention in the email correspondence. There can be no doubt that Starmer’s motive was entirely ulterior to the Swedish investigation, and almost certainly is related to the illegal CIA activity against Assange and the current US extradition effort. Starmer is revealed as a highly unscrupulous and mendacious character.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full article entitled “How The Establishment Functions” published on Thursday 3rd.

The ghoulish spectre of Savile has risen again; reminiscent of the pale and ghostly arm that breaks silently through the rippleless waters of the lake at the end of the film Deliverance, it was meant to be buried forever, yet infests whatever stands in for the collective unconscious of the British Establishment. Nobody wants to see it again: not the BBC, not the Conservative Party, not Starmer, not even Johnson, but he blurts it out anyway. And that is just another reason why is has to go.

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, Craig Murray

Assange extradition given go-ahead on International Human Rights Day

Today’s High Court ruling which grants permission for Julian Assange’s extradition to the US with the prospect of a 175 year prison term in a maximum security jail makes it evident that the US-UK “special relationship” overrides justice. With the verdict delivered on UN International Human Rights Day, it seems equally apparent that the British establishment is quite happy to thumb its nose at advocates of human rights and freedom of speech.

The mainstream media has once against relegated this critically important story, taking great care to keep it out of the headlines while they also downplay the menacing significance of the case for all real journalists with an ounce of integrity. Meanwhile Assange’s partner Stella Moris speaking to those rallying outside the court said:

“Today is International Human Rights Day: what a shame; how cynical to have this decision on this day. To have the foremost journalist of the past fifty years in a UK prison accused of publishing the truth about war crimes…

“And in fact every time we have a hearing, we know more about the abusive nature, the criminal nature, of this case. Julian exposed the crimes of CIA torturers, of CIA killers, and now we know those CIA killers were planning to kill him too. How can these courts approve an extradition request under these conditions?”

*

Speaking on RT, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said:

“This is not a case that is being fought on the basis of the law. This is an absolute travesty of any legal process. This is a political case, and Julian’s arrest, as we have said for many, many years is a political persecution.”

*

Former Labour MP Chris Williamson also denounced the decision saying, “the British judiciary and the British government are acting like the US’ poodle”:

My intention is to post regular updates as this story continues to develop.

*

Updates:

Democracy Now! reported on the day of the High Court ruling and invited Gabriel Shipton, who is a filmmaker and Julian Assange’s brother, and Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, to speak about the case (partial transcript below):

Ben Wizner: “This is the first time in the 100-year ignominious history of U.S. Espionage Act, which was passed during an earlier Red Scare, that someone has been prosecuted with felony charges for publishing truthful information. We’ve never seen a case like this. This was a Rubicon that we didn’t want to see crossed. The Obama administration considered making Julian Assange the first person charged, convened a criminal grand jury, but, at the end, cooler heads prevailed, and they realized that there was simply no way to distinguish the conduct that they would have to charge in this case from what investigative journalists at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker do on a daily basis.

And let’s remember, this case involves disclosures from 2010, 2011, that Chelsea Manning was convicted for providing to WikiLeaks. This was not something that WikiLeaks published on its own. WikiLeaks partnered with The New York Times, with Der Spiegel, with The Guardian. And those newspapers published award-winning journalism covering war crimes that the U.S. and U.K. military had committed in Iraq and in Afghanistan, diplomatic cables that shed light on our support for oppressive regimes and torture and contributed to the Arab Spring. So this was really vital information that the public around the world had a right and a need to know.

And here’s our concern. At the U.S. level, this indictment criminalizes investigative journalism. Now, the Justice Department wants to say this isn’t journalism, this is a criminal conspiracy; he conspired with Chelsea Manning, tried to urge her, cajole her, help her to turn over U.S. government secrets. But that precisely describes what our best investigative journalists do. You could describe everything they do as a criminal conspiracy, because they’re trying to persuade people with access to privileged and important information to violate the law and turn it over to journalists in the public interest. So, this precedent, if there is a conviction here, will chill journalists. It doesn’t mean that The New York Times will be prosecuted the next day, but it means their lawyers will tell their journalists that they can’t publish important things because of that threat of prosecution.

Gabriel Shipton: “Well, I think the appeal was approved based on the assurances given by the U.S. These assurances have been found — you know, Amnesty International has said they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on. If he’s extradited, he, I’m sure — you know, they can’t guarantee his safety in the U.S. prison system. He will likely die here, if not beforehand. So, that’s — really, we live in fear of that happening to Julian.

And as I said, it’s his third Christmas in Belmarsh prison now. You know, the conditions there, they’re not good there, either. He should be at home with his family. He’s just — you know, he’s being crushed, basically. And I’m so — you know, it’s hard to — it’s hard to put into words, really, what we’re seeing happening to Julian. He is so strong and so resilient, but this whole process has really taken its toll on him.

So, the next stage, so Julian has now two weeks to appeal this decision. The High Court has ordered the magistrates’ court to approve the extradition and send it to Priti Patel to approve. So Julian has two weeks to appeal this decision. And we’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to appeal. And there is also a cross-appeal in the works, which will appeal all the substantive press freedom issues, as well.

Click here to watch the discussion and read the full transcript on the Democracy Now! website.

*

Also on the day of the judgement, Useful Idiots Katie Halper and Matt Taibbi spoke with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland and Professor of International Law at University of Glasgow, Nils Melzer:

*

Following his release from prison, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray travelled to London to attend the hearing and afterwards reported on the latest ruling:

The effect of the judgement is that the case is now returned to Judge Baraitser with the instruction to reverse her decision and order Assange’s extradition. In doing so she passes the papers up to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, with whom the final decision on all extraditions lies. Julian has until 23 December to submit an appeal against this High Court decision to the Supreme Court, something he is minded to do.

Now read this very carefully. The United States Government’s appeal to the High Court was only on those points on which Baraitser had ruled against extradition – Assange’s mental health and the effect upon it of extradition and US prisoner conditions. Assange’s appeal now to the Supreme Court will also be restricted to those subjects. The points on which Baraitser originally ruled in favour of the United States, including Assange’s First Amendment protections and the right of freedom of speech, the bar on political extradition and the inapplicability of espionage charges to journalism – will only be heard later, if he loses at the Supreme Court on what is still the US appeal.

If the Supreme Court decides for the US on the basis of diplomatic assurances, and the case returns to Baraitser to exercise the extradition warrant, at that time we finally have the cross appeal on all the issues this case is really about. If the High Court then accepts the cross-appeal as arguable (and Holroyde stated specifically that Assange’s wider points of appeal “would be heard at a later stage in proceedings”), then Patel’s trigger itching hand will be stayed while we restart the appeals process, quite possibly back to Holroyde and Burnett.

This benefits the Machiavellian state in two ways. For up to another year the legal argument will continue to be about Julian’s mental health, where the self-disparagement required by his defence suits the state political narrative. Nobody inside court is currently permitted to be talking about freedom of speech or the exposure of US war crimes, and that of course feeds in to the MSM reporting.

The state also is happy that this convoluted Supreme Court and then cross-appeal process will last for years not months, even before we look at the European Court of Human Rights, and all that time Julian Assange is stuck in high security in Belmarsh jail, treated as a terrorist, and his mental and physical health are visibly deteriorating in a way that is simply horrible. It is not hyperbole to state we may well be watching his slow murder by the state. It certainly appears now probable that he will never fully regain his health. The Julian who went into captivity is not the same man we would get back if ever released.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s report in full on his official website published on December 13th.

Here is Craig Murray speaking outside the High Court on the day of the ruling:

*

Leave a comment

Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, Craig Murray, internet freedom, police state, USA

first they came for Julian Assange, then they came for Steven Donziger…

Update:

Chris Hedges and Joe Lauria, Editor-in-Chief of Consortium News both followed this week’s extradition hearing for Julian Assange via video link. On Saturday 30th, with the ruling from the proceedings still pending, they discussed the case on Chris Hedge’s RT show On Contact:

On the same day, Afshin Rattansi spoke with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, about the trial and the treatment of Julian Assange. They discuss Melzer’s assessment that Julian Assange has been psychologically tortured by UK authorities; why it has become harder for the UK courts to refuse the US extradition request; the parallels between the video of the murder of George Floyd and Julian Assange’s revelations; and what Julian Assange’s persecution means for the average citizen’s rights:

The original article begins below.

*

“If they can do it to anyone, they can do it to us,” Marianne Williamson recalls her father warning. As Julian Assange faced his extradition hearing and Steven Donziger lost his appeal and had to report to prison, Marianne Williamson spoke with independent journalist Katie Halper about the “viciousness of the system”.  She reminds us that this anyone who takes on corporate and state power will be gone after by corporations and state institutions or a combination, which is why we need to stand up and speak out.

*

The last week was a terrible week for justice.

After two and a half years of detention inside HMP Belmarsh maximum security prison, Julian Assange, who appears to be seriously ill, is facing extradition to America where he is expected to receive a 175 year sentence; guilty of the grave crime of practising journalism. As Chris Hedges writes:

Assange’s “crime” is that he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians.

He exposed the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 and 89, at Guantánamo.

He exposed that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other U.N. representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included the eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya, replacing it with a murderous and corrupt military regime.

He exposed that George W. Bush, Barack Obama and General David Petraeus prosecuted a war in Iraq that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as a criminal war of aggression, a war crime, which authorized hundreds of targeted assassinations, including those of US citizens in Yemen.

He exposed that the United States secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians.

He exposed that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton $657,000 to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe, and that she privately assured corporate leaders she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform.

He exposed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party.

He exposed how the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency permits the wholesale government surveillance of our televisions, computers, smartphones and anti-virus software, allowing the government to record and store our conversations, images and private text messages, even from encrypted apps.

He exposed the truth. He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite. And for these truths alone he is guilty.

Click here to read Chris Hedges full article entitled “The Most Important Battle for Press Freedom in Our Time” published by Sheerpost on Thursday 28th Oct.

This week Julian Assange was back in court for the final decision on his extradition hearing. In response the stenographers of power with feet tucked comfortably under their desks, politely sat back and said absolutely nothing.

This was the home page on the BBC website late on October 27th (following the first day of Assange’s hearing):

BBC news home page oct 27 2021

And this is the BBC politics page:

BBC news politics page Oct 27 2021

There was also no mention at all on the BBC world events page, although Assange does finally manage to grab a column inch on their UK page:

BBC news UK page Oct 27

On the second and last day of the hearing, BBC News did at least manage to produce a brief résumé of the case (embedded below) which is truly a masterpiece in how to mislead an audience by means of clever changes in tone and a disconnected series of half-truths:

Lies of omission abound. So although it reminds us that Assange had originally skipped bail telling the world his extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations (charges were later dropped) would inevitably result in his deportation to America, the report entirely fails to then put two and two together. Clearly Assange had been telling the truth all along and wasn’t making excuses.

Still more negligent is the BBC’s abject failure to mention how a de facto regime change in Ecuador first enabled the British to arrest him inside the embassy; or that private meetings with his lawyers were illegally bugged; or how the central allegations against him that led to charges of hacking and espionage are discredited by the dodgy witness who made them; or even the truly staggering revelations that the CIA actually formed plans to kidnap and assassinate Assange in London.

Nonetheless Channel 4 News still managed to outdo the BBC and on Wednesday failed to provide any mention whatsoever of Assange’s trial on any of its pages – here’s a glimpse of their main UK page:

Channel 4 news UK page Oct 27 2021

And here is a screenshot of Channel 4 NewsYoutube channel showing uploads for the entire week – stories that cover Ethiopia, Welsh ambulances, COP26, Frances Haugen and Facebook, Rishi Sunak’s budget, UK police abuse, Nigerian bronzes “looted” by British Museum, Sudan, the Met Police… but once again, no mention at all of Julian Assange:

Channel 4 news Youtube channel Oct 28 2021

Meanwhile, the Guardian, which once worked extremely closely with Assange, supplied their readership with a small offering on what is undoubtedly the trial of the century:

Guardian home page Oct 27 2021

Coincidentally, on the very same day that Julian Assange was fighting for justice and hoping to avoid extradition and the hell of an American jail, the environmental lawyer Steven Donziger whose case I have detailed here had his own appeal rejected by a court in New York and faced imprisonment too. Once again, none of the mainstream outlets either in the UK and America has devoted any attention to this story.

Instead, the Guardian environmental page looked like this:

Guardian environment page Oct 27 2021

And if you had typed Steven Donziger into Google this is all you would see – reports from The Nation and Democracy Now! but no coverage whatsoever by any newspapers or major TV channels in America or Europe:

Google main page for Steven Donziger Oct 27 2021

Here is one of the few post-judgement reports on Donziger’s imprisonment that I can find uploaded on Youtube:

To loosely paraphrase Martin Niemöller’s famous entreaty once more: first they came for the journalists, next they came for the lawyers…

So the last week has been a terrible week for Julian Assange and Steven Donziger, and more generally a terrible week for freedom and democracy.

So far, it has been a terrible week for all of us full stop.

*

Additional:

Outside the High Court on day two, Julian Assange’s partner Stella Moris, Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, and Jeremy Corbyn arrive to speak to the crowd of protesters and with RT journalists:

Awaiting the decision on Julian Assange’s extradition at the end of the two-day hearing, on Thursday evening [Oct 28th] Roger Waters, shared his thoughts in an interview with RT:

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, campaigns & events, USA

when is a whistleblower not a whistleblower? Facebook, Frances Haugen, Avaaz (again) and the billion dollar question

Facebook is not averse to censorship. Indeed, it has already been in the business of censoring political content for many years. Here is journalist Chris Hedges speaking out against its social media censorship twelve months ago:

Twitter and Facebook blocked access to a New York Post story about a cache of emails reportedly belonging to Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s son Hunter, with Twitter locking the New York Post out of its own account for over a week. This overt censorship is emblematic of the widening and dangerous partisan divide within the US media. News and facts are no longer true or false; they are divided into information that either hurts or promotes one political faction over another.

While outlets such as Fox News have always existed as an arm of the Republican Party, this partisanship has now infected nearly all news organisations, including publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post along with the major tech platforms that disseminate news. The division of the press into warring factions shreds journalistic credibility, creating a world where facts do not matter, and where a public is encouraged to believe whatever it wants to believe.

The statement above provided the introduction to Chris Hedge’s interview with fellow journalist Matt Taibbi on his RT show On Contact broadcast on the eve of the US Presidential election [Oct 31st, 2020]. The show is also embedded above and you can click here to read an annotated transcript I posted a few days later under the title “Chris Hedges and Matt Taibbi on true ‘fake news’ and the monopolised censorship of the tech giants”.

However, Facebook’s censorship of political content enjoys a far longer history, as I already highlighted in an extended article published in March 2019 under the title “Gilet Jaunes, Avaaz, Macron & Facebook (or when grassroots ‘populism’ meets controlled opposition)”. In that piece I drew on revelations make public by Forbes magazine in April 2018 of secret rules for censoring posts:

The company has come in for a fair amount of criticism over the years for taking down perfectly innocuous content – everything from photos of classical statues to the famous picture of a napalmed child in Vietnam.

Now, users whose content has been taken down will be notified and given the chance to ask for a review; reviews will normally be carried out within 24 hours.

The policy will initially apply only to nudity or sexual activity, hate speech and graphic violence, says [VP of global product management Monika] Bickert.

But, she adds, “We are working to extend this process further, by supporting more violation types, giving people the opportunity to provide more context that could help us make the right decision, and making appeals available not just for content that was taken down, but also for content that was reported and left up.” 1

At that time and in response to Facebook’s announcement of its policy, the ACLU cautioned against this corporate censorship drive and clampdown on free speech:

If Facebook gives itself broader censorship powers, it will inevitably take down important speech and silence already marginalized voices. We’ve seen this before. Last year, when activists of color and white people posted the exact same content, Facebook moderators censored only the activists of color. When Black women posted screenshots and descriptions of racist abuse, Facebook moderators suspended their accounts or deleted their posts. And when people used Facebook as a tool to document their experiences of police violence, Facebook chose to shut down their livestreams. The ACLU’s own Facebook post about censorship of a public statue was also inappropriately censored by Facebook.

Facebook has shown us that it does a bad job of moderating “hateful” or “offensive” posts, even when its intentions are good. Facebook will do no better at serving as the arbiter of truth versus misinformation, and we should remain wary of its power to deprioritize certain posts or to moderate content in other ways that fall short of censorship. 2

Click here to read the ACLU statement in full.

In the same article, I also highlighted a fresh censorship drive that had been launched by Facebook back in October 2018:

People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook. It’s why we have a policy banning coordinated inauthentic behavior — networks of accounts or Pages working to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing. This year, we’ve enforced this policy against many Pages, Groups and accounts created to stir up political debate, including in the US, the Middle East, Russia and the UK. But the bulk of the inauthentic activity we see on Facebook is spam that’s typically motivated by money, not politics. And the people behind it are adapting their behavior as our enforcement improves.

The statement continues:

Topics like natural disasters or celebrity gossip have been popular ways to generate clickbait. But today, these networks increasingly use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site. And like the politically motivated activity we’ve seen, the “news” stories or opinions these accounts and Pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate. This is why it’s so important we look at these actors’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove.

Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. 3

Click here to read the Facebook statement in full.

This clampdown was reported on by the Guardian in an article entitled “Facebook accused of censorship after hundreds of US political pages purged”, which included an interview with two disabled veterans, one of whom stated that:

“I don’t think Facebook wants to fix this… I think they just want politics out, unless it’s coming from the mainstream media.”

*

Avaaz campaign Facebook knew

It is noteworthy, I think, that yesterday [Oct 27th] – a day that happens to coincide with the reopening of Julian Assange’s extradition trial – I received a new message from pressure group Avaaz. It reads [with all highlights retained from original]:

A brave whistleblower just leaked secret Facebook documents… and they’re shocking!

They show that Facebook knew. It knew that human traffickers used their platform to lure women into sexual slavery. It knew that it was being used to incite violence against minorities, which had already fueled death and displacement in the past. It knew that divisive lies and extremism were being promoted to millions all over the world. And it knew its systems were removing less than 1% of violent content.

Facebook knew all this. And yet, the whistleblower said, it has put “profits before people”.

As I say, it is interesting how the timing of this latest Avaaz campaign on the back of “whistleblower” Frances Haugen has coincided with the trial of the single most prominent whistleblower in the world today, Julian Assange.

I contend, however, for a variety of reasons I shall come to, that Frances Haugen is not a real whistleblower at all. After all, genuine whisteblowers lose their jobs, or still worse, they finish up in prison. And they always, more or less by definition, have something new to disclose.

Chelsea Manning is a real whistleblower. Likewise John Kiriakou, who exposed the use of waterboarding and served time in jail, and former UK ambassador Craig Murray, who testified to the UK’s complicity in the horrific torture of Uzbek dissidents (presenting evidence of victims boiled alive) and consequently lost his job and his health (today he languishes in prison after falling foul of unrelated charges).

There are countless examples of real whistleblowers, and arguably the most exceptional is Julian Assange himself, held in conditions described by the UN as “torture” inside max security HMP Belmarsh and facing extradition to the US for espionage.

As Jonathan Cook wrote in an article entitled straightforwardly “Haugen Isn’t Really a ‘Facebook Whistleblower’” at the beginning of this latest saga:

There are clues that Haugen’s “whistleblowing” may not be quite what we assume it is, and that two different kinds of activities are being confused because we use the same word for both.

That might not matter, except that using the term in this all-encompassing manner degrades the status and meaning of whistleblowing in ways that are likely to be harmful both to those doing real whistleblowing and to us, the potential recipients of the secrets they wish to expose.

The first clue is that there seems to be little Haugen is telling us that we do not already know – either based on our own personal experiences of using social media (does anyone really not understand yet that Facebook manipulates our feeds through algorithms?) or from documentaries like The Social Dilemma, where various refugees from Silicon Valley offer dire warnings of where social media is leading society.

We did not call that movie’s many talking heads “whistleblowers”, so why has Haugen suddenly earnt a status none of them deserved? (You can read my critique of The Social Dilemma here.)

Cook then correctly acknowledges that the immediate and prominent attention Haugen has received from both liberal media outlets and within political circles (especially on “the left” – i.e., Democrat rather than Republican) “does not mean that she is not drawing attention to important matters” (emphasis is mine), before adding:

But it does mean that it is doubtful that “whistleblowing” is a helpful term to describe what she is doing.

This is not just a semantic issue. A lot hangs on how we use the term.

A proper whistleblower is trying to reveal the hidden secrets of the most powerful to bring about accountability and make our societies more transparent, safer, fairer places. Whistleblowing seeks to level the playing field between those who rule and those who are ruled.

At the national and international level, whistleblowers expose crimes and misdemeanours by the state, by corporations and by major organisations so that we can hold them to account, so that we, the people, can be empowered, and so that our increasingly hollow democracies gain a little more democratic substance.

But Haugen has done something different. Or at least she has been coopted, willingly or not, by those same establishment elements that are averse to accountability, opposed to the empowerment of ordinary people, and stand in the way of shoring up of democratic institutions.

Jonathan Cook continues:

Our “Facebook whistleblower” is not helping to blow the whistle on the character of the power structure itself, or its concealed crimes, or its democratic deficit, as Manning and Snowden did.

She has not turned her back on the establishment and revealed its darkest secrets. She has simply shifted allegiances within the establishment, making new alliances in the constantly shifting battles between elites for dominance.

Which is precisely why she has been treated with such reverence by the 60 Minutes programme and other “liberal” corporate media and feted by Democratic party politicians. She has aided their elite faction over a rival elite faction.

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s article published by Counterpunch on October 12th in full.

*

Digging a little deeper, journalist Alexander Rubinstein reveals more about Haugen’s sudden emergence as the purported source of the leak quickly christened “The Facebook Files”. He writes:

Haugen first appeared in September 2021 as the supposed source of a leak called “The Facebook Files.” She was immediately hailed as a “modern US hero” in the media for secretly copying tens of thousands of internal Facebook documents and releasing them to the Wall Street Journal, which published a series of nine articles based on the documents.

The WSJ initially kept its source anonymous, rolling out the series two weeks before Haugen came forward in an October 3 interview with 60 Minutes. On camera, she complained that Facebook was “tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.”

“Ethnic violence including Myanmar in 2018 when the military used Facebook,” narrated 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, to “launch a genocide.”

When pressed by 60 Minutes about what motivated her to leak the documents, Haugen answered vaguely: “at some point in 2021, I realized I’m going to have to do this in a systematic way and I have to get enough [so] that no one can question that this is real.”

Yet Haugen first divulged company information before 2021. In the final installment of the Journal’s series, the outlet revealed that Haugen first sent an encrypted text to one of their reporters on December 3, 2020.

That same article, published the day the 60 Minutes interview aired, reported that Haugen “continued gathering material from inside Facebook through her last hour with access to the system. She reached out to lawyers at Whistleblower Aid [more on this organisation below], a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that represents people reporting corporate and government misbehavior.”

Doors have been promptly flung open on both sides of the Atlantic, with Frances Haugen ushered to give testimony before lawmakers across Europe and in America. Having spoken with MPs in France and Britain as well as two members of the European Parliament on October 3rd, Haugen was also called on October 5th to testify before a Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection.

But who is Frances Haugen anyway? Well, this is you will learn from her current Wikipedia entry (all links retained):

After graduating from college, Haugen was hired by Google, and worked on Google Ads, Google Book Search, a class action litigation settlement related to Google publishing book content, as well as Google+.[7] At Google, Haugen co-authored a patent for a method of adjusting the ranking of search results.[11] During her career at Google, she completed her MBA, which was paid for by Google.[7] While at Google, she was a technical co-founder of the desktop dating app Secret Agent Cupid, precursor to the mobile app Hinge.[12][10][13]

She then moved to Google’s tech rival Facebook and became product manager on the newly-formed “threat intelligence unit” which comprised some 200 fellow employees. Rubinstein picks up the story again:

At Facebook, Haugen claimed she worked as product manager on a “threat intelligence unit” at the company. “So I was a product manager supporting the counter-espionage team,” she claimed to Sen. Sullivan. Part of her job included “directly work[ing] on tracking Chinese participation on the platform,” she claimed. Further, she alleged that Iran used the platform to conduct “espionage” on the platform.

“I’m speaking to other members of Congress about that,” Haugen acknowledged. “I have strong national security concerns about how Facebook operates today.”

As journalist Kit Klarenberg reported, the little-known Facebook “threat intelligence unit” where Haugen claimed to have worked is staffed by former CIA, NSA, and Pentagon operatives. Those who work at the unit must have “5+ years of experience working in intelligence (either government or private sector), international geopolitical, cybersecurity, or human rights functions,” according to a job posting.

Yet Haugen’s now-deleted blog and Twitter account feature no political content, nor does her resume.

In short, Frances Haugen’s profile has the telltale signs of an intelligence operative, while this latest tranche of document leaks has all the hallmarks of a limited hangout. Equally, and set alongside Haugen’s somewhat exceptional employment history, there are related questions that arise once we delve into the legal body that represents her, an organisation called Whistleblower Aid:

[T]he outfit was founded by a national security lawyer, Mark Zaid, who has been accused of ratting out his client, CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, to his employers in Langley. Zaid is joined by a former State Department official and government-approved whistleblower, John Tye [more below], ex-CIA and Pentagon official Andrew Bakaj, and veteran US government information warrior, Libby Liu, who has specialized in supporting color revolution-style operations against China.

John Kiriakou, the CIA whistleblower jailed for exposing the agency’s role in the serial torture of terror suspects, commented to The Grayzone, “Mark Zaid presents himself to the public as a whistleblower attorney, however, he is anything but. Instead, he has betrayed his clients and come down on the side of prosecutors in the intelligence community. He is not to be trusted.”

Kiriakou continued, “My own personal belief is that he is the intelligence community’s preferred ‘whistleblower’ attorney because he’s willing to place their interests over his clients.”

Alexander Rubinstein continues:

Tech billionaire and media mogul Pierre Omidyar has provided funding to Whistleblower Aid, as well as to a public relations firm assisting Haugen. Omidyar has played his own role in US foreign interventionism, sponsoring anti-government media outlets and activists alongside US government agencies in states where Washington seeks regime change. […]

Whistleblower Aid bills itself as “a pioneering, non-profit legal organization that helps patriotic government employees and brave, private-sector workers report and publicize their concerns — safely, lawfully, and responsibly.”

But is this group truly the whistleblower protection outfit it claims to be?

In fact, Whistleblower Aid appears to have been modeled as a sort of anti-Wikileaks organization.  “Whistleblower Aid is not Wikileaks,” the “vision” page of the former organization insists. On another section of its website, it states, “No one should ever send classified information to Whistleblower Aid. Whistleblower Aid will never assist clients or prospective clients with leaking classified information.”

*

Avaaz campaign Facebook knew - continued

Coming back to Avaaz’s email (see extract above): after vaingloriously promoting itself with claims such as “Avaaz has helped force Facebook’s shame onto the agenda of legislators across the world”, their latest message goes on remind us of the other threats we may face by not censoring online content:

We’ve seen, time and again, what devastating real-world consequences social media can have. In Myanmar, the military turned Facebook into a tool for ethnic cleansing, spreading hatred that fueled a bloodbath. In Palestine and Israel, viral lies are further inflaming the conflict. And all over the world, it’s become a Covid-conspiracy hotbed, with doctors warning against an ‘infodemic’ of fake news.

Nobody does overwrought rhetoric quite like Avaaz! (emphasis in keeping)

But seriously, does anyone actually believe social media is to blame in any way whatsoever for inflamed tensions between Palestine and Israel? If so, how? Surely it has a great deal more to do with the illegal occupation, the bombing of Gaza, the indiscriminate shooting of peaceful protesters and the daily oppression of Israel’s apartheid regime; none of which, judging by the campaigns it most actively promotes, Avaaz has any serious concern about.

And precisely what constitutes “a Covid-conspiracy hotbed”? Or put differently, how can social media firms be regulated to police every question relating to the risks, treatments (including vaccines), and importantly, the unknown origins of the pandemic? For that matter, and besides Avaaz and some in the media, who is issuing such dire warnings about a supposed ‘infodemic’ – doctors, which doctors? The fact is that a great many doctors and other medical experts are actively engaged in this vitally important debate and are very thankful to have access to public platforms across the internet.

Here is comedian and political commentator Jimmy Dore pointing out how Facebook’s so-called “independent fact checkers” – i.e., anonymous corporate gatekeepers – have just flagged up research in a published and peer-reviewed scientific study by Harvard scientists [warning: strong language]:

Intriguingly, Alexander Rubinstein’s own fact check into the background of ‘whistleblower’ Frances Haugen uncovers another link to Avaaz, since it transpires that “government-approved whistleblower”, John Tye – who, as mentioned above, was co-founder and chief disclosure officer of Whistleblower Aid, the legal nonprofit organisation assisting Haugen – had previously worked there too:

Shortly before leaving Avaaz, Tye responded to criticism of the billionaire-backed group’s advocacy for a [Syria] no-fly zone, writing “thousands and thousands of people will die, for years to come, if we turn away and wring our hands.”

As I explained at greater length in an extended article from March 2015, the term “no-fly zone” is both a misnomer and a euphemism. In fact it is a straightforward demand for sustained military intervention necessitating air strikes. By calling for “no-fly zones” Avaaz was deliberately helping to manufacture consent for US military intervention that sought regime change both in Libya and Syria.

But then, as Rubinstein points out, when it comes to these nonprofit wheels within wheels, they are all turning in much the same direction – ‘the nonprofit-industrial complex’:

Like his former client-turned-legal partner, Mark Zaid has clamored for ramped up US intervention in Syria, tweeting to then-President Trump “what are you going to do about Syria? It’s your problem now, We can’t stand by and let innocent people continue to be slaughtered.”

Click here to read Alexander Rubinstein’s full article entitled “Facebook ‘whistleblower’ Frances Haugen represented by US intelligence insiders” published by The Grayzone on October 21st.

*

Which brings us to the billion dollar question: who really benefits from Haugen’s “disclosures”? Another independent journalist, Glenn Greenwald, sets out the case carefully in his own recent article published on Substack:

There is no doubt, at least to me, that Facebook and Google are both grave menaces. Through consolidation, mergers and purchases of any potential competitors, their power far exceeds what is compatible with a healthy democracy. A bipartisan consensus has emerged on the House Antitrust Committee that these two corporate giants — along with Amazon and Apple — are all classic monopolies in violation of long-standing but rarely enforced antitrust laws. […]

Facebook and Twitter both suppressed reporting on the authentic documents about Joe Biden’s business activities reported by The New York Post just weeks before the 2020 election. These social media giants also united to effectively remove the sitting elected President of the United States from the internet, prompting grave warnings from leaders across the democratic world about how anti-democratic their consolidated censorship power has become.

But none of the swooning over this new Facebook heroine nor any of the other media assaults on Facebook have anything remotely to do with a concern over those genuine dangers.

He continues:

Agitating for more online censorship has been a leading priority for the Democratic Party ever since they blamed social media platforms (along with WikiLeaks, Russia, Jill Stein, James Comey, The New York Times, and Bernie Bros) for the 2016 defeat of the rightful heir to the White House throne, Hillary Clinton. And this craving for censorship has been elevated into an even more urgent priority for their corporate media allies, due to the same belief that Facebook helped elect Trump but also because free speech on social media prevents them from maintaining a stranglehold on the flow of information by allowing ordinary, uncredentialed serfs to challenge, question and dispute their decrees or build a large audience that they cannot control. Destroying alternatives to their failing platforms is thus a means of self-preservation: realizing that they cannot convince audiences to trust their work or pay attention to it, they seek instead to create captive audiences by destroying or at least controlling any competitors to their pieties. […]

The canonized Facebook whistleblower and her journalist supporters are claiming that what Facebook fears most is repeal or reform of Section 230, the legislative provision that provides immunity to social media companies for defamatory or other harmful material published by their users. That section means that if a Facebook user or YouTube host publishes legally actionable content, the social media companies themselves cannot be held liable. There may be ways to reform Section 230 that can reduce the incentive to impose censorship, such as denying that valuable protection to any platform that censors, instead making it available only to those who truly allow an unmoderated platform to thrive. But such a proposal has little support in Washington. What is far more likely is that Section 230 will be “modified” to impose greater content moderation obligations on all social media companies.

Far from threatening Facebook and Google, such a legal change could be the greatest gift one can give them, which is why their executives are often seen calling on Congress to regulate the social media industry. Any legal scheme that requires every post and comment to be moderated would demand enormous resources — gigantic teams of paid experts and consultants to assess “misinformation” and “hate speech” and veritable armies of employees to carry out their decrees. Only the established giants such as Facebook and Google would be able to comply with such a regimen, while other competitors — including large but still-smaller ones such as Twitter — would drown in those requirements. And still-smaller challengers to the hegemony of Facebook and Google, such as Substack and Rumble, could never survive. In other words, any attempt by Congress to impose greater content moderation obligations — which is exactly what they are threatening — would destroy whatever possibility remains for competitors to arise and would, in particular, destroy any platforms seeking to protect free discourse. That would be the consequence by design, which is why one should be very wary of any attempt to pretend that Facebook and Google fear such legislative adjustments.

Taking the helicopter view, we might properly regard the tech giants and their billionaire owners as rivals only in the way the five mafia families of The Godfather are rivals. When they are not fighting turf wars, they are working hand in glove and functioning as vital components of the national security state which protects all of their interests as it maintains the status quo.

As Greenwald concludes:

There are real dangers posed by allowing companies such as Facebook and Google to amass the power they have now consolidated. But very little of the activism and anger from the media and Washington toward these companies is designed to fracture or limit that power. It is designed, instead, to transfer that power to other authorities who can then wield it for their own interests. The only thing more alarming than Facebook and Google controlling and policing our political discourse is allowing elites from one of the political parties in Washington and their corporate media outlets to assume the role of overseer, as they are absolutely committed to doing. Far from being some noble whistleblower, Frances Haugen is just their latest tool to exploit for their scheme to use the power of social media giants to control political discourse in accordance with their own views and interests.

Click here to read Glenn Greenwald’s full article entitled “Democrats and Media Do Not Want to Weaken Facebook, Just Commandeer its Power to Censor” published on October 5th.

*

1 From an article entitled “Facebook Reveals Its Secret Rules For Censoring Posts” written by Emma Woollacott, published in Forbes magazine on April 24, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/emmawoollacott/2018/04/24/facebook-reveals-its-secret-rules-for-censoring-posts/#40a453b56da4

2 From an article entitled “Facebook Shouldn’t Censor Offensive Speech” written by Vera Eidelman, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, published by ACLU on July 20, 2018. https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/internet-speech/facebook-shouldnt-censor-offensive-speech

3 From a Facebook announcement entitled “Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook” written by Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy and Oscar Rodriguez, Product Manager, posted by Facebook on October 11, 2018. https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/10/removing-inauthentic-activity/

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, internet freedom, USA

John Pilger on the trials of Julian Assange and journalism’s surrender

Having attended last week’s US extradition hearing of Julian Assange, on Friday [Aug 13th] John Pilger published a report in Counterpunch. He writes:

Yesterday, the United States sought the approval of Britain’s High Court to extend the terms of its appeal against a decision by a district judge, Vanessa Baraitser, in January to bar Assange’s extradition.  Baraitser accepted the deeply disturbing evidence of a number of experts that Assange would be at great risk if he were incarcerated in the US’s infamous prison system.

Professor Michael Kopelman, a world authority on neuro-psychiatry, had said Assange would find a way to take his own life — the direct result of what Professor Nils Melzer, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, described as the craven “mobbing” of Assange by governments – and their media echoes.

Those of us who were in the Old Bailey last September to hear Kopelman’s evidence were shocked and moved. I sat with Julian’s father, John Shipton, whose head was in his hands. The court was also told about the discovery of a razor blade in Julian’s Belmarsh cell and that he had made desperate calls to the Samaritans and written notes and much else that filled us with more than sadness.

Watching the lead barrister acting for Washington, John Lewis — a man from a military background who deploys a cringingly theatrical “aha!” formula with defence witnesses — reduce these facts to “malingering” and smearing witnesses, especially Kopelman, we were heartened by Kopelman’s revealing response that Lewis’s abuse was “a bit rich” as Lewis himself had sought to hire Kopelman’s expertise in another case.

Lewis’s sidekick is Clair Dobbin, and yesterday was her day. Completing the smearing of Professor Kopelman was down to her. An American with some authority sat behind her in court.

Dobbin said Kopelman had “misled” Judge Baraister in September because he had not disclosed that Julian Assange and Stella Moris were partners, and their two young children, Gabriel and Max, were conceived during the period Assange had taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

The implication was that this somehow lessened Kopelman’s medical diagnosis: that Julian, locked up in solitary in Belmarsh prison and facing extradition to the US on bogus “espionage” charges, had suffered severe psychotic depression and had planned, if he had not already attempted, to take his own life.

For her part, Judge Baraitser saw no contradiction. The full nature of the relationship between Stella and Julian had been explained to her in March 2020, and Professor Kopelman had made full reference to it in his report in August 2020. So the judge and the court knew all about it before the main extradition hearing last September. In her judgement in January, Baraitser said this:

[Professor Kopelman] assessed Mr. Assange during the period May to December 2019 and was best placed to consider at first-hand his symptoms. He has taken great care to provide an informed account of Mr. Assange background and psychiatric history. He has given close attention to the prison medical notes and provided a detailed summary annexed to his December report. He is an experienced clinician and he was well aware of the possibility of exaggeration and malingering. I had no reason to doubt his clinical opinion.

She added that she had “not been misled” by the exclusion in Kopelman’s first report of the Stella-Julian relationship and that she understood that Kopelman was protecting the privacy of Stella and her two young children.

In fact, as I know well, the family’s safety was under constant threat to the point when an embassy security guard confessed he had been told to steal one of the baby’s nappies so that a CIA-contracted company could analyse its DNA. There has been a stream of unpublicised threats against Stella and her children.

Click here to read John Pilger’s full article entitled “A Day in the Death of British Justice”, published by Counterpunch on Friday 13th.

*

On the same day, John Pilger was interviewed by RJ Eskow for The Zero Hour. The conversation opens with Pilger’s overview of the Assange case and how his incarceration has been prolonged despite the fact that the original charges against him were dropped many years ago. Pilger says the likelihood is that the October hearing will settle his fate without any appeal to the Supreme Court.

In summary, Pilger says: “It’s got very serious now for those who practice real journalism and that’s what’s on trial with Julian Assange: real journalism; because if he is extradited to the United States, the intimidation of that, the effect of that will be disastrous. It will be insidious – it won’t have to be spelt out – but through generations of journalism there will be the example of Assange who went too far.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Britain, John Pilger, USA

Craig Murray becomes the UK’s latest prisoner of conscience

 

FORMER UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is to begin an eight-month jail term after being found guilty of contempt of court after an appeal bid was refused.

Murray was sentenced to eight months imprisonment after a judge ruled that he had unlawfully published details about the identities of female witnesses in Alex Salmond’s criminal trial on his blog last year. But he was released on bail in order to launch an appeal bid that has now failed.

Murray continues to deny intent to breach the court order protecting their identities, and that such a breach took place.

Lady Dorrian laid down her verdict in May, saying that Murray’s blog could lead to jigsaw identification of four of those involved, if read with other published materials.

A statement released yesterday said the 62-year-old would “surrender himself to police shortly and begin to serve the custodial sentence handed to him”.

That comes after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.

Sentence was deferred for that purpose but will now begin

Click here to read the full article entitled “Craig Murray to hand himself over to police to face jail sentence” written by Kirsteen Paterson published in The National on July 29th.

For more details surrounding the case you can find many articles on Craig Murray’s website. For a summary and overview I recommend this one written by Kirsten MacDonald: https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/06/craig-murrays-trial-what-happens-next/

It begins:

On Monday morning [June 7th], Lady Dorrian and two supporting judges will hear the application from Roddy Dunlop QC for Craig Murray to be allowed to appeal to the UK Supreme Court against both their verdict of contempt of court for jigsaw identification, and against the disproportionate sentence.

It is widely expected, given the obvious animus against Murray she has shown throughout the proceedings, that leave to appeal will be refused and Lady Dorrian will commit Craig Murray to jail, probably from Wednesday 9 June. At that stage, Murray’s legal team will have to apply direct to the UK Supreme Court to grant him an appeal, but his eight month sentence will likely be served before the Supreme Court even looks at whether to consider it.

Concluding:

Murray is of course one of Sturgeon’s fiercest critics and opposes both the abolition of juries and the abolition of the right of defence lawyers to cross-examine accusers. The prime thrust of the reporting for which he is being jailed was that Nicola Sturgeon was behind the false accusations that were made against Alex Salmond.

There is a real possibility that aspects of Dorrian’s handling of the Murray case could come in for serious criticism by the Supreme Court. These include her acceptance of a handful of anonymous tweets claiming to have learnt identities from Murray’s blog (with zero evidence they actually knew identities) as having important evidential weight, her effective dismissal of his entire affidavits as lies despite hearing no evidence that contradicted them, her making no reference at any stage to Salmond’s acquittal (indeed both her judgement and sentencing remarks on Murray refer to Salmond’s “victims” and “offences” with no “purported”, “alleged” or other qualifier, even after the acquittal), her extremely low bar for jigsaw identification (to any individual who already had specialist knowledge), the breathtakingly draconian sentence, and the curt and offhand dismissal of all Article X ECHR freedom of speech arguments.

If Dorrian grants the appeal to the Supreme Court, she is opening herself up to criticism at a crucial time in her career. As one lawyer put it to me, to grant the appeal would be “asking for a kicking”. If she refuses permission to appeal, she is putting back any Supreme Court decision probably for two years, and giving herself the ability to imprison and silence Murray in the interim.

Murray’s team have very little hope for Monday.

*

Now a prisoner himself, Craig Murray has been at the forefront of the campaign calling for the release of Julian Assange. Held indefinitely in Belmarsh, Assange currently faces extradition to the US on the basis of charges relating solely to allegations made by an Icelandic informant, Sigi Thordarson. Thordarson is a registered sex offender guilty of online activities with under-age boys. He was also convicted of stealing approximately $50,000 from Wikileaks as well as of impersonating Julian Assange online. More recently, Thordarson confessed that his claims against Assange are entirely false.

As Murray reported a month ago on June 29th:

Thordarson has now told Icelandic magazine Stundin that his allegations against Assange contained in the indictment are untrue, and that Assange had not solicited the hacking of bank or police details. This is hardly a shock, though Thordarson’s motives for coming clean now are obscure; he is plainly a deeply troubled and often malicious individual.

Thordarson was always the most unreliable of witnesses, and I find it impossible to believe that the FBI cooperation with him was ever any more than deliberate fabrication of evidence by the FBI.

Edward Snowden has tweeted that Thordarson recanting will end the case against Julian Assange. Most certainly it should end it, but I fear it will not.

Many things should have ended the case against Assange. The First Amendment, the ban on political extradition in the US/UK Extradition Treaty, the CIA spying on the preparations of Assange’s defence counsel, all of these should have stopped the case dead in its tracks.

It is now five months since extradition was refused, no US government appeal against that decision has yet been accepted by the High Court, and yet Julian remains confined to the UK’s highest security prison. The revelation that Thordarson’s allegations are fabricated – which everyone knew already, Baraitser just pretended she didn’t – is just one more illegality that the Establishment will shimmy over in its continued persecution of Assange.

Assange democratised information and gave real power to the people for a while, worldwide. He revealed US war crimes. For that his life is destroyed. Neither law nor truth have anything to do with it.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full piece “FBI Fabrication Against Assange Falls Apart”.

As Julian Assange languishes in prison under conditions described by UN special rapporteur, Nils Melzer, as torture for no crime other than publishing facts that are embarrassing to the British and US State, now Craig Murray too has been jailed for publishing unwanted facts and, in this case, ones already widely available in the public domain.

Assange and Murray are Britain’s most prominent political prisoners. Their prosecutions represent the finals blows to the last vestiges freedom of speech in the UK. Meanwhile, where is the outcry from the liberal media? The Guardian which once worked with Assange in releasing Wikileaks documents, today fabricates and disseminates savage but idiotic propaganda hit-pieces that it then fails to retract even when caught out.

And where too is the outcry from backbench and/or opposition politicians including Labour leader Keir Starmer who is the former Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Director of Public Prosecutions?

Following the expected outcome of his own case, Craig Murray issued a response on his official website yesterday under the title “Going Dark” with a statement from his wife, Nadira:

This blog will be going dark for a few months. The Queen kindly paid for my dinners for over twenty years while I was a British diplomat and Ambassador, and now she is going to be paying for my dinners again. That is very kind, I thought she had forgotten me.

The following is a statement from Nadira:

29.07.21
Today is the most heartbreaking day. My husband whose health has been found to not be suitable for prison must hand himself in for detention within hours following the UK Supreme Court’s decision not to hear his appeal.

We were extremely hopeful that the Supreme Court would hear his case and had no doubt that this particular case should have been heard given how important and relevant it is in the context of Freedom of Speech in the UK. Instead, the Supreme Court declined to hear it.

Yet again my heart is deeply saddened to find that the UK, once a country which placed great importance on Human Rights issues, has failed to listen to my husband’s case. Additionally, the Scottish Court outright dismissed Craig’s poor health, having been made aware through the mandatory Social Work report and doctor’s reports that his wellbeing would be at risk if forced to go to jail.

At first I tried to come to terms of him being jailed in the hope he would be granted dignified conditions in jail but I am saddened and shocked to learn he could be placed among criminals, with no ability to bring books or enable him to write, with no entertainment allowed. He is being treated like a criminal. This is not a just punishment, this is a deliberate attempt to break the spirit of anyone brave enough to make use of free speech.

Given a pen and paper what do you do? You write in your own voice speaking the truth. Having been with Craig for two decades he has always spent his time and energy highlighting injustices and standing up for what is right, carefully, considerately and consistently.

I was brought up during Soviet times, and post independence in my own country, Uzbekistan. I have witnessed and personally experienced myself what the price of freedom of speech truly is. Opponents were ‘disappeared’ or it was claimed they had ‘taken their own life’, or been locked away in asylums. I am filled with fear this pattern is now repeating itself in the UK. It is appalling to see Craig is going through the same treatment in the so-called ‘human rights’ respecting country UK.

This is an attack on Truthtellers. His writings are those of a highly qualified Journalist, Human Rights Activist, former Rector of Dundee University and former British Ambassador. To us, his family, this situation is devastating: I am now left with my 5 months old baby, yet to find a good way to explain Craig’s jail sentence to his confused and anxious 12 year old son.

Of any readers concerned with the loss of freedom of speech and equality before the law I ask that you show active and outspoken solidarity with my partner.

A Craig Murray Justice Campaign has been formed which I hope you can support. Find them on twitter @cmurrayjustice. Their website will be up shortly and details will be posted on this site.

*

Update:

The Campaign for Justice for Craig Murray has released an official statement which is reproduced in full below:

Legal precedent will be set tomorrow as Craig Murray will be the first person to be imprisoned on the charge of jigsaw identification in the UK, and indeed in the entire world. Scotland’s second most senior judge, Lady Dorrian, sentenced Murray to 8 months of incarceration following a contempt of court charge for ‘jigsaw identification’ relating to the trial against Alex Salmond.

In May Lady Dorrian said that in her view Murray had intended to release identities of Salmond’s accusers. Mr Murray has always denied any intent to identify and that anybody was actually identified. Murray had not directly identified any of the accusers in the Salmond trial, but Dorrian argued identification may be possible if his reporting of the case was read in connection with other materials in the public domain.

No one aside from Murray was charged with jigsaw identification in connection with the Salmond case, despite the fact that 81% of respondents in a Panelbase survey who believed that they had learned identities, gave mainstream media as the source of their knowledge. Lady Dorrian specifically stated that bloggers and mainstream media should be treated differently, as mainstream media are self-regulated.

Murray is the first person to be imprisoned in the UK for a media contempt for over 50 years, and in Scotland for over 70 years.

Murray’s imprisonment comes after an announcement from the UK Supreme Court that it will not hear his appeal. Former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray will surrender himself to Police shortly and begin to serve the custodial sentence handed to him. A public protest against Murrays’ incarceration is planned. Murray’s wife and mother of their 5 month and 12 year old sons Nadira has written an open letter asking for “active and outspoken solidarity from anyone concerned about the loss of freedom of speech and equality before the law”.

Murray had recently been called as a witness in a case brought by Spanish state prosecutors against UC Global for allegedly acting on behalf of the CIA in covertly spying on Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. Material before the Spanish court includes several hours of covert surveillance video of Murray in private conversation with Assange on the future of Assange and Wikileaks. The Scottish court removed Murray’s passport expressly to prevent him traveling to Spain to testify.

Craig Murray commented:

“I go to jail with a clean conscience after a Kafkaesque trial. I genuinely do not know who I am supposed to have identified or which phrases I published are said to have identified them, in combination with what other information in the public domain. This judgement will have a chilling effect on reporting of the defence case at trials, to the detriment of justice, and the different treatment of bloggers and approved media is sinister. I carefully protect the identities of the accusers in my reports. I believe this is actually the state’s long sought revenge for my whistleblowing on security service collusion with torture and my long term collaboration with Wikileaks and other whistleblowers. Unfortunately important free speech issues are collateral damage.”

Murray and the Craig Murray Justice committee have both signalled their intention to continue to resist the penalty handed to him by continuing to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights via all routes required. They are particularly concerned that in her opinion Lady Dorrian implied that bloggers and public commentators like Murray ought to be punished more severely than mainstream journalists for the same offense. Ellen Joelle Dalzell, coordinator of the Craig Murray Justice campaign group stated:

“The sentence handed to Craig Murray not only sets legal precedent in terms of a custodial sentence for the charge of jigsaw identification, it represents an attack on free speech in general, and a tangible threat to the free reporting of legal trials in particular. The judgement is excessively punitive, is likely to have severe implications for Murray’s poor health and represents a dangerous precedent for journalists and other writers who seek to fairly report or comment on matters of public law.”

*

Additional:

On August 1st, Craig Murray posted the following article summarising once again the importance of issues surrounding his own case and in a response to the ensuing Twitter storm. I have reproduced his article in full including the embedded House of Commons speech made by Kenny MacAskill MP with transcript supplied beneath courtesy of Hansard:

I want to make one or two points for you to ponder while I am in jail. This is the last post until about Christmas; we are not legally able to post anything while I am imprisoned. But the Justice for Craig Murray Campaign website is now up and running and will start to have more content shortly. Fora and comments here are planned to stay open.

I hope that one possible good effect of my imprisonment might be to coalesce opposition to the imminent abolition of jury trials in sexual assault cases by the Scottish Government, a plan for which Lady Dorrian – who wears far too many hats in all this – is front and centre. We will then have a situation where, as established by my imprisonment, no information at all on the defence case may be published in case it contributes to “jigsaw identification”, and where conviction will rest purely on the view of the judge.

That is plainly not “open justice”, it is not justice at all. And it is even worse than that, because the openly stated aim of abolishing juries is to increase conviction rates. So people will have their lives decided not by a jury of their peers, but by a judge who is acting under specific instruction to increase conviction rates.

It is often noted that conviction rates in rape trials are too low, and that is true. But have you ever heard this side of the argument? In Uzbekistan under the Karimov dictatorship, when I served there, conviction rates in rape trials were 100%. In fact very high conviction rates are a standard feature of all highly authoritarian regimes worldwide, because if the state prosecutes you then the state gets what it wants. The wishes of the state in such systems vastly outweigh the liberty of the individual.

My point is simply this. You cannot judge the validity of a system simply by high conviction rates. What we want is a system where the innocent are innocent and the guilty found guilty; not where an arbitrary conviction target is met.

The answer to the low conviction rates in sexual assault trials is not simple. Really serious increases in resources for timely collection of evidence, for police training and specialist units, for medical services, for victim support, all have a part to play. But that needs a lot of money and thought. Just abolishing juries and telling judges you want them to convict is of course free, or even a saving.

The right to have the facts judged in serious crime allegations by a jury of our peers is a glory of our civilisation. It is the product of millennia, not lightly to be thrown away and replaced by a huge increase in arbitrary state power. That movement is of course fueled by current fashionable political dogma which is that the victim must always be believed. That claim has morphed from an initial meaning that police and first responders must take accusations seriously, to a dogma that accusation is proof and it is wrong to even question the evidence, which is of course to deny the very possibility of false accusation.

That is precisely the position which Nicola Sturgeon has taken over the Alex Salmond trial; to be accused is to be guilty, irrespective of the defence evidence. That people are oblivious to the dangers of the dogma that there should be no defence against sexual assault allegations, is to me deeply worrying. Sexual allegation is the most common method that states have used to attack dissidents for centuries, worldwide and again especially in authoritarian regimes. Closer to home, think of history stretching from Roger Casement to Assange and Salmond.

Why would we remove the only barrier – a jury of ordinary citizens – that can stop abuse of state power?

I am worried that this abolition of juries will have been enacted by the Scottish Parliament, even before I am out of jail. I am worried Labour and the Lib Dems will support it out of fashionable political correctness. I am worried an important liberty will disappear.

I want to touch on one other aspect of liberty in my own imprisonment that appears not understood, or perhaps simply neglected, because somehow the very notion of liberty is slipping from our political culture. One point that features plainly in the troll talking points to be used against me, recurring continually on social media, is that I was ordered to take down material from my blog and refused.

There is an extremely important point here. I have always instantly complied with any order of a court to remove material. What I have not done is comply with instructions from the Crown or Procurator Fiscal to remove material. Because it is over 330 years since the Crown had the right of censorship in Scotland without the intervention of a judge.

It sickens me that so many Scottish Government backed trolls are tweeting out that I should have obeyed the instructions of the Crown. That Scotland has a governing party which actively supports the right of the Crown to exercise unrestrained censorship is extremely worrying, and I think a sign both of the lack of respect in modern political culture for liberties which were won by people being tortured to death, and of the sheer intellectual paucity of the current governing class.

But then we now learn that Scotland has a government which was prepared not only to be complicit in exempting the Crown from climate change legislation, but also complicit in hushing up the secret arrangement, so I am not surprised.

What is even more terrifying in my case is that the Court explicitly states that I should have followed the directions of the Crown Office in what I did and did not publish, and my failure to not publish as the Crown ordered is an aggravating factor in my sentencing.

If the Crown thinks something I write is in contempt and I think it is not, the Crown and I should stand as equals in court and argue our cases. There should be no presumption I ought to have obeyed the Crown in the first place. That Scottish “justice” has lost sight of this is disastrous, though perhaps as much from stupidity as malice.

My next thought on my trial is to emphasise again the dreadful doctrine Lady Dorrian has now enshrined in law, that bloggers should be held to a different (by implication higher) standard in law than the mainstream media (the judgement uses exactly those terms), because the mainstream media is self-regulated.

This doctrine is used to justify jailing me when mainstream media journalists have not been jailed for media contempt for over half a century, and also to explain why I have been prosecuted where the mainstream media, who were provably responsible for far more jigsaw identification, were not prosecuted.

This is dreadful law, and my entire legal team are frankly astonished that the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on this point. This excellent article by Jonathan Cook explains further the chilling implications.

Those articles which the Court ordered me to take down, have been taken down. But I was not ordered to take down this one, which was found not to be in contempt of court. I was also not ordered to take down my affidavits, which though slightly redacted are still extremely valuable. I swore to the truth of every word and I stick by that. At the time I published these, far less was known about the Salmond affair than is known now, and I believe you will find it well worth reading them again in the light of your current state of wider knowledge – absolutely nothing to do with learning identities, but to do with what really happened on the whole plot to destroy Alex Salmond (something the judgement states I am allowed to say).

Finally I urge you to consider this truly remarkable speech from Kenny MacAskill MP. Scotland’s former Justice Secretary, and consider its quite staggering implications. It tells you everything you want to know about the British Establishment’s capture of the Scottish government, that the mainstream media felt no need to report the main points he was making, which constitute a simply astonishing outline of corrupt abuse of power.

Kenny MacAskill:

Before the post of Secretary of State for Scotland was created, the Lord Advocate was the power in the land, and some postholders were despotic indeed. The transportation of Thomas Muir and the hanging and beheading of Baird, Hardie and Wilson, the Scottish radicals and 1820 martyrs, are crimes that lie with them. Thankfully, the post devolved and became a purely legal role, but an anachronism was built in, for the postholder is both principal legal adviser to the Scottish Government yet also head of the prosecution service—the Crown Office, as it is known. That is something replicated neither elsewhere in the United Kingdom nor, indeed, in any modern democracy. Conflict of interest precludes it. In England and Wales, an Attorney General advises the Government from within. Meanwhile, a head of the prosecution service is both separate and independent from Government. But not so in Scotland, and therein lies the problem.

To be fair, apart from those despotic years, postholders, irrespective of political hue and whether pre or post-devolution, have acted with the impartiality expected. Modest steps were taken to mitigate the conflict of powers. Under Alex Salmond’s Administration a convention was invoked that the Lord Advocate appeared at Cabinet only when legal advice was to be given and did not participate in wider political debate. But the anachronism still lingered. Under Nicola Sturgeon’s Administration it has been brutally exposed by both Scottish Government and Crown Office actions, with the Lord Advocate straddling both. Change is now needed, and fast.

Firstly, there has been an admission by the outgoing Lord Advocate of malicious prosecutions involving the administrators in the Rangers FC liquidation. That is unprecedented in Scotland, not just in recent years but since those days of the early 19th century. Even south of the border there have been no such cases since 1999, and high-profile cases before such as the Winston Silcott and Daniel Morgan cases were rare. It has caused alarm with the public and been of huge reputational damage in an organisation where impartiality is imperative. It has also caused consternation and anger within police and prosecution services, where the overwhelming majority of staff act without bias and free of any favour or prejudice. The reputation of the many has been traduced by a few.

It was the former Lord Advocate’s decision, and seeking to cast blame on his predecessor was shameful and inadequate. An inquiry, perhaps even by a non-Scottish judicial figure, has been promised. Additionally, there is the financial cost. The quantum of damages is for the court, but suggestions are that the final bill could reach £60 million or £80 million—this in an organisation with an annual budget of £300 million, struggling to meet existing commitments. The price will be paid by Scottish taxpayers and the loss felt by hard-pressed Scottish public services.

Secondly, and just as alarming, has been the role of the Lord Advocate and a coterie around him within the Crown Office in the Alex Salmond case, and the fallout from it. It is another instance of the public having to pay the price of Government incompetence, with the legal expenses bill in the civil case amounting to £500,000, but where the issue of impartiality as well as competence was raised. In the civil case, the presiding judge described the Scottish Government’s actions as “unlawful”, “unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias”. During proceedings, senior external counsel, Roddy Dunlop QC, dean of the Faculty of Advocates, expressed horror at the situation he and his colleague had been put in by their client. They could no longer rest on pleadings they knew to be untrue. The client was the Government, and their senior legal adviser was the Lord Advocate. A criminal case followed the failed civil case and was prosecuted by the Crown Office, where the same Lord Advocate remained in office.

Despite growing pressures on police and prosecution, nothing has been spared—nothing has been too trivial—but the targets always seem selective. The Alex Salmond case saw resources deployed that are normally reserved for serious organised crime figures or serial killers, for charges that, were it not for who was being prosecuted, would either never have seen the light of day or appeared only in the lowest courts, not the High Court. I say that as someone who was Justice Secretary for seven and a half years but also a defence agent for 20 years. As it was, Mr Salmond was acquitted on all charges, by a majority female jury.

It is standard practice in cases involving politicians that the Lord Advocate recuses himself from involvement in the consideration or prosecution of the case, and that was done here, with no direct involvement in the prosecution. However, at the same time, the Lord Advocate had been, and was, sitting on Scottish Government committees dealing with the civil case, where referral or prosecution was being actively sought and advised by the Administration.

Let us recall that a prosecution was sought by the Scottish Government, as the actions of the director of human resources in contacting the police confirm. Many—indeed, most—complainers were and remain at the heart of Government, or are officials or otherwise closely linked with the governing party. Prosecution was encouraged and pressed for by the chief executive of the governing party, who is the First Minister’s husband.

Chinese walls and recusal are entirely inadequate. In one role, the Lord Advocate was supporting a Government pursuing prosecution; in another, he was denying that it was anything to do with him. A separation of powers this certainly was not. When James Wolffe appeared before the Holyrood Committee considering the Salmond prosecution, he was frankly evasive and obfuscating, mirroring the actions of the Crown and the Government in a lack of openness and transparency. There was neither contrition nor candour. Open government this certainly was not.

The fallout and failures continue to reverberate. Following on from the Alex Salmond case has been that of Craig Murray, a writer and former diplomat. His conviction is under appeal at the Supreme Court; accordingly, I refrain from commenting on specifics of the case. Instead, I restrict my remarks to the decision by the Crown to prosecute Mr Murray for jigsaw identification of complainers in the case. Why was he prosecuted when others who did so—in one case certainly overtly, and in many others much more flagrantly than by Mr Murray—were not? No action was taken against them.

Moreover, publications that in any other case would have constituted a clear contempt of court went without censure by the Crown. They included newspaper articles as prejudicial as I have ever seen, but they were supporting prosecution, whereas Mr Murray, though seeking to report factually, was not. It seems that the Crown has one law for those supporting the Government line and another for those who challenge it.

Click here to read the full transcript of Kenny MacAskill’s House of Common’s speech.

And here to read Craig Murray’s original post entitled “Keeping Freedom Alive”.

1 Comment

Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, Craig Murray, internet freedom

how the Guardian, NYT and rest of the “Vichy journalists” all sold Julian Assange down the river

“Julian Assange, in courageously upholding political beliefs that most of us profess to share, has performed an enormous service to all the people in the world who treasure the values of freedom and democracy” — Noam Chomsky

*

On September 7th,  as Julian Assange’s extradition hearing entered its final stage, John Pilger gave this address outside the Central Criminal Court in London:

When I first met Julian Assange more than ten years ago, I asked him why he had started WikiLeaks. He replied: “Transparency and accountability are moral issues that must be the essence of public life and journalism.”

I had never heard a publisher or an editor invoke morality in this way. Assange believes that journalists are the agents of people, not power: that we, the people, have a right to know about the darkest secrets of those who claim to act in our name.

If the powerful lie to us, we have the right to know. If they say one thing in private and the opposite in public, we have the right to know. If they conspire against us, as Bush and Blair did over Iraq, then pretend to be democrats, we have the right to know.

It is this morality of purpose that so threatens the collusion of powers that want to plunge much of the world into war and wants to bury Julian alive in Trumps fascist America.

In 2008, a top secret US State Department report described in detail how the United States would combat this new moral threat. A secretly-directed personal smear campaign against Julian Assange would lead to “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”.

The aim was to silence and criminalise WikiLeaks and its founder. Page after page revealed a coming war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, and democracy.

The imperial shock troops would be those who called themselves journalists: the big hitters of the so-called mainstream, especially the “liberals” who mark and patrol the perimeters of dissent.

And that is what happened. I have been a reporter for more than 50 years and I have never known a smear campaign like it: the fabricated character assassination of a man who refused to join the club: who believed journalism was a service to the public, never to those above.

Assange shamed his persecutors. He produced scoop after scoop. He exposed the fraudulence of wars promoted by the media and the homicidal nature of America’s wars, the corruption of dictators, the evils of Guantanamo.

He forced us in the West to look in the mirror. He exposed the official truth-tellers in the media as collaborators: those I would call Vichy journalists. None of these imposters believed Assange when he warned that his life was in danger: that the “sex scandal” in Sweden was a set up and an American hellhole was the ultimate destination. And he was right, and repeatedly right.

The extradition hearing in London this week is the final act of an Anglo-American campaign to bury Julian Assange. It is not due process. It is due revenge. The American indictment is clearly rigged, a demonstrable sham. So far, the hearings have been reminiscent of their Stalinist equivalents during the Cold War.

Today, the land that gave us Magna Carta, Great Britain, is distinguished by the abandonment of its own sovereignty in allowing a malign foreign power to manipulate justice and by the vicious psychological torture of Julian – a form of torture, as Nils Melzer, the UN expert has pointed out, that was refined by the Nazis because it was most effective in breaking its victims.

Every time I have visited Assange in Belmarsh prison, I have seen the effects of this torture. When I last saw him, he had lost more than 10 kilos in weight; his arms had no muscle. Incredibly, his wicked sense of humour was intact.

As for Assange’s homeland, Australia has displayed only a cringeing cowardice as its government has secretly conspired against its own citizen who ought to be celebrated as a national hero. Not for nothing did George W. Bush anoint the Australian prime minister his “deputy sheriff”.

It is said that whatever happens to Julian Assange in the next three weeks will diminish if not destroy freedom of the press in the West. But which press? The Guardian? The BBC, The New York Times, the Jeff Bezos Washington Post?

No, the journalists in these organisations can breathe freely. The Judases on the Guardian who flirted with Julian, exploited his landmark work, made their pile then betrayed him, have nothing to fear. They are safe because they are needed.

Freedom of the press now rests with the honourable few: the exceptions, the dissidents on the internet who belong to no club, who are neither rich nor laden with Pulitzers, but produce fine, disobedient, moral journalism – those like Julian Assange.

Meanwhile, it is our responsibility to stand by a true journalist whose sheer courage ought to be inspiration to all of us who still believe that freedom is possible. I salute him.

Click here to read the same transcript on John Pilger’s official website.

John Pilger also gave an extended interview with Afshin Rattansi on today’s ‘Going Underground’:

*

Yesterday was the last day of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing at the Old Bailey and unless you have followed the daily reports from Craig Murray; Binoy Kampmark at Counterpunch; Joe Lauria of Consortium News or a handful of other alternative media sites, it is more than likely you have remained unaware that any trial was taking place, let alone what is at stake.

As Binoy Kampmark reported on Thursday – summing up events of the previous day:

Today will be remembered as a grand expose. It was a direct, pointed accusation at the intentions of the US imperium which long for the scalp of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. For WikiLeaks, it was a smouldering triumph, showing that the entire mission against Assange, from the start, has been a political one. The Australian publisher faces the incalculably dangerous prospect of 17 charges under the US Espionage Act and one under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Stripped to its elements, the indictment is merely violence kitted out in the vestment of sham legality. The rest is politics.

Doubtless, and was not for ‘the politics’, the Assange case would have made headline news and featured front-and-centre of mainstream news bulletins for weeks, not only because the seriousness of its potential ramifications – how it will cast a long shadow over press freedom and set a precedent for further US overreach based on trumped up charges of ‘spying’ – but more straightforwardly because of the prominence and quality of so many of the witnesses called to give testimony in Assange’s defence. These include (to single out just three of the more outstanding) Daniel Ellsberg, ‘Pentagon Papers’ whistleblower; Clive Stafford Smith, esteemed human rights lawyer and a  co-founder of Reprieve; before, on Wednesday, Noam Chomsky joined these illustrious ranks having issued a fourteen point submission of concise eloquence which concludes as follows:

One device to control the population is to operate in secret so that the ignorant and meddlesome outsiders will stay in their place, remote from the levers of power, which are none of their business. That’s the main purpose for classification of internal documents. Anyone who has pored through the archives of released documents has surely come to realise pretty quickly that what is kept secret very rarely has anything at all to do with security except for the security of the leadership from their domestic enemy, their own population.  The practice is so routine that illustration is really quite superfluous.  I’ll mention only one current case.  Consider the global trade agreements: Pacific and Atlantic, in actuality investor rights agreements masquerading under the rubric of free trade. They’re negotiated in secret. There’s an intention of a Stalinist style of ratification by parliaments –  yes or no –  which of course means yes with no discussion or debate, what’s called in the United States “fast track”.  To be accurate they’re not negotiated entirely in secret.  The facts are known to the corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the details in such a way as to protect the interests of the constituency that they represent which is of course not the public. The public on the contrary is an enemy that must be kept in ignorance.

Julian Assange’s alleged crime in working to expose government secrets is to violate the fundamental principles of government, to lift the veil of secrecy that protects power from scrutiny, keeps it from evaporating – and again it is well understood by the powerful that lifting the veil may cause power to evaporate. It may even lead to authentic freedom and democracy if an aroused public comes to understand that force is on the side of the governed and it can be their force if they choose to control their own fate.

In my view, Julian Assange, in courageously upholding political beliefs that most of us profess to share, has performed an enormous service to all the people in the world who treasure the values of freedom and democracy and who therefore demand the right to know what their elected representatives are doing. His actions in turn have led him to be pursued in a cruel and intolerable manner.

Click here to find Chomsky’s statement uploaded in full within Craig Murray’s report.

Returning to Binoy Kampmark’s report from the same day, he continues:

Witness statements were read from a veritable who’s who of courageous investigative journalism (Patrick Cockburn, Andy Worthington, Stefania Maurizi and Ian Cobain) and an assortment of legal freight from Guy Goodwin-Gill, professor of law at the University of New South Wales, Robert Boyle, well versed in the dark practices of grand juries and Jameel Jaffer of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

These statements, pointing to the value of the WikiLeaks publications, the care taken in releasing them, and the terrifying prospects for press freedom, deserve separate treatment.

Kampmark’s report then scrutinises in granular detail, evidence presented by two anonymous witnesses from the Spanish security firm UC Global S.L. in what he describes as “Wednesday’s grand show”. Since this lies outside of my purview, I direct and encourage readers instead to read his full article entitled “Assange on Trial: Embassy Espionage, Contemplated Poisoning and Proposed Kidnapping” published by Counterpunch on October 1st.

A précis is also provided by Craig Murray’s report from Wednesday:

Twenty minutes sufficed for the reading of the “gist” of the astonishing testimony of two witnesses, their identity protected as their lives may be in danger, who stated that the CIA, operating through Sheldon Adelson, planned to kidnap or poison Assange, bugged not only him but his lawyers, and burgled the offices of his Spanish lawyers Baltazar Garzon. This evidence went unchallenged and untested.

Meanwhile, here is what BBC has been reporting throughout what is (without exaggeration) the trial of the century – quite literally nothing! (the top article here is a ‘profile’ from September 23rd):

Screenshot from BBC website today

*

“If I am a conspirator to commit espionage, then all these other media organisations and the principal journalists in them are also conspirators to commit espionage. What needs to be done is to have a united face in this.”

These are the words of Julian Assange quoted from an interview with journalist Mark Davis of Australian TV channel SBS back in 2011, as he unpacked why the US preferred to charge him under the Espionage Act of 1917 in their determined effort to isolate him from other journalists and thereby lessen an otherwise perceived threat that they too might share his fate. (The relevant section is from 24–43 mins and the quote is at 40:00 mins.)

In a different article published last week by Counterpunch, investigative reporter Jonathan Cook reminds us of Assange’s statement and places it in context:

During the course of the current extradition hearings, US officials have found it much harder to make plausible this distinction principle than they may have assumed.

Journalism is an activity, and anyone who regularly engages in that activity qualifies as a journalist. It is not the same as being a doctor or a lawyer, where you need a specific professional qualification to practice. You are a journalist if you do journalism – and you are an investigative journalist if, like Assange, you publish information the powerful want concealed. Which is why in the current extradition hearings at the Old Bailey in London, the arguments made by lawyers for the US that Assange is not a journalist but rather someone engaged in espionage are coming unstuck.

Cook continues:

Assange was doing exactly what journalists claim to do every day in a democracy: monitor power for the public good. Which is why ultimately the Obama administration abandoned the idea of issuing an indictment against Assange. There was simply no way to charge him without also putting journalists at the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian on trial too. And doing that would have made explicit that the press is not free but works on licence from those in power.

For that reason alone, one might have imagined that the entire media – from rightwing to liberal-left outlets – would be up in arms about Assange’s current predicament. After all, the practice of journalism as we have known it for at least 100 years is at stake.

But in fact, as Assange feared nine years ago, the media have chosen not to adopt a “united face” – or at least, not a united face with Wikileaks. They have remained all but silent. They have ignored – apart from occasionally to ridicule – Assange’s terrifying ordeal, even though he has been locked up for many months in Belmarsh high-security prison awaiting efforts to extradite him as a spy.

In a follow-up piece also published by Counterpunch, Cook discusses at greater length and in detail how the corporate media have betrayed Assange. Most egregious is the Guardian, which of course worked in collaboration with Wikileaks to publish the Iraq and Afghan war diaries. Cook writes:

My first criticism was that the paper had barely bothered to cover the hearing, even though it is the most concerted attack on press freedom in living memory. That position is unconscionably irresponsible, given its own role in publishing the war diaries. But sadly it is not inexplicable. In fact, it is all too easily explained by my second criticism.

That criticism was chiefly levelled at two leading journalists at the Guardian, former investigations editor David Leigh and reporter Luke Harding, who together wrote a book in 2011 that was the earliest example of what would rapidly become a genre among a section of the liberal media elite, most especially at the Guardian, of vilifying Assange.

He continues:

Leigh and Harding’s book now lies at the heart of the US case for Assange’s extradition to the US on so-called “espionage” charges. The charges are based on Wikileaks’ publication of leaks provided by Chelsea Manning, then an army private, that revealed systematic war crimes committed by the US military. 

Lawyers for the US have mined from the Guardian book claims by Leigh that Assange was recklessly indifferent to the safety of US informants named in leaked files published by Wikileaks.

Assange’s defence team have produced a raft of renowned journalists, and others who worked with Wikileaks, to counter Leigh’s claim and argue that this is actually an inversion of the truth. Assange was meticulous about redacting names in the documents. It was they – the journalists, including Leigh – who were pressuring Assange to publish without taking full precautions.

Of course, none of these corporate journalists – only Assange – is being put on trial, revealing clearly that this is a political trial to silence Assange and disable Wikileaks.

Cook then provides details regarding a specific incident that is central to the prosecution claims highlighting how it was the Guardian journalists themselves and not Assange who must be held responsible for many of these unredacted leaks:

The February 2011 Guardian book the US keeps citing contained something in addition to the highly contentious and disputed claim from Leigh that Assange had a reckless attitude to redacting names. The book also disclosed a password – one Assange had given to Leigh on strict conditions it be kept secret – to the file containing the 250,000 encrypted cables. The Guardian book let the cat out of the bag. Once it gave away Assange’s password, the Old Bailey hearings have heard, there was no going back.

Any security service in the world could now unlock the file containing the cables. And as they homed in on where the file was hidden at the end of the summer, Assange was forced into a desperate damage limitation operation. In September 2011 he published the unredacted cables so that anyone named in them would have advance warning and could go into hiding – before any hostile security services came looking for them.

Yes, Assange published the cables unredacted but he did so – was forced to do so – by the unforgivable actions of Leigh and the Guardian.

Not that any of Wikileaks publications are believed to have harmed informants, as a Guardian report substantiates:

“Brigadier general Robert Carr, a senior counter-intelligence officer who headed the Information Review Task Force that investigated the impact of WikiLeaks disclosures on behalf of the Defense Department, told a court at Fort Meade, Maryland, that they had uncovered no specific examples of anyone who had lost his or her life in reprisals that followed the publication of the disclosures on the internet. “I don’t have a specific example,” he said.

It has been one of the main criticisms of the WikiLeaks publications that they put lives at risk, particularly in Iran and Afghanistan. The admission by the Pentagon’s chief investigator into the fallout from WikiLeaks that no such casualties were identified marks a significant undermining of such arguments.

Click here to read the full Guardian report entitled “Bradley Manning leak did not result in deaths by enemy forces, court hears” written by Ed Pilkington, published on July 31st 2013.

Moreover, John Young, the editor of a US website Cryptome (which has in the past been highly critical of Wikileaks) is another who gave evidence at the Assange hearings. Young told the court they had published the unredacted cables on September 1st 2011, crucially the day before Wikileaks published, though they (unlike Wikileaks) have never been pursued by law enforcement agencies. Craig Murray, who has been reporting from the public gallery throughout the trial, writes that:

Cryptome is US based but they had never been approached by law enforcement about these unredacted cables in any way nor asked to take them down. The cables remained online on Cryptome.

Similarly Chris Butler, Manager for Internet Archive, gave evidence of the unredacted cables and other classified documents being available on the Wayback machine. They had never been asked to take down nor been threatened with prosecution.

Click here to read the same in Craig Murray’s report from day 17 of the hearing published on September 25th.

Jonathan Cook then goes on to list the Guardian’s deceptions point-by-point. He writes – and I have reproduced below his criticism in full:

Every time the US cites Leigh and Harding’s book, it effectively recruits the Guardian against Assange and against freedom of the press. Hanging over the paper is effectively a threat that – should it not play ball with the US campaign to lock Assange away for life – the US could either embarrass it by publicly divulging its role or target the paper for treatment similar to that suffered by Assange.

And quite astoundingly, given the stakes for Assange and for journalism, the Guardian has been playing ball – by keeping quiet. Until this week, at least.

Under pressure, the Guardian finally published on Friday a short, sketchy and highly simplistic account of the past week’s hearings, and then used it as an opportunity to respond to the growing criticism of its role in publishing the password in the Leigh and Harding book.

The Guardian’s statement in its report of the extradition hearings is not only duplicitous in the extreme but sells Assange down the river by evading responsibility for publishing the password. It thereby leaves him even more vulnerable to the US campaign to lock him up.

Here is its statement:

“The Guardian has made clear it is opposed to the extradition of Julian Assange. However, it is entirely wrong to say the Guardian’s 2011 WikiLeaks book led to the publication of unredacted US government files,” a spokesman said.

“The book contained a password which the authors had been told by Julian Assange was temporary and would expire and be deleted in a matter of hours. The book also contained no details about the whereabouts of the files. No concerns were expressed by Assange or WikiLeaks about security being compromised when the book was published in February 2011. WikiLeaks published the unredacted files in September

Cook then goes on to highlight the deceptions:

  1. The claim that the password was “temporary” is just that – a self-exculpatory claim by David Leigh. There is no evidence to back it up beyond Leigh’s statement that Assange said it. And the idea that Assange would say it defies all reason. Leigh himself states in the book that he had to bully Assange into letting him have the password precisely because Assange was worried that a tech neophyte like Leigh might do something foolish or reckless. Assange needed a great deal of persuading before he agreed. The idea that he was so concerned about the security of a password that was to have a life-span shorter than a mayfly is simply not credible.

  1. Not only was the password not temporary, but it was based very obviously on a complex formula Assange used for all Wikileaks’ passwords to make them impossible for others to crack but easier for him to remember. By divulging the password, Leigh gave away Assange’s formula and offered every security service in the world the key to unlocking other encrypted files. The claim that Assange had suggested to Leigh that keeping the password secret was not of the most vital importance is again simply not credible.
  2. But whether or not Leigh thought the password was temporary is beside the point. Leigh, as an experienced investigative journalist and one who had little understanding of the tech world, had a responsibility to check with Assange that it was okay to publish the password. Doing anything else was beyond reckless. This was a world Leigh knew absolutely nothing about, after all.

But there was a reason Leigh did not check with Assange: he and Harding wrote the book behind Assange’s back. Leigh had intentionally cut Assange out of the writing and publication process so that he and the Guardian could cash in on the Wikileak founder’s early fame. Not checking with Assange was the whole point of the exercise.

  1. It is wrong to lay all the blame on Leigh, however. This was a Guardian project. I worked at the paper for years. Before any article is published, it is scrutinised by backbench editors, sub-editors, revise editors, page editors and, if necessary, lawyers and one of the chief editors. A Guardian book on the most contentious, incendiary publication of a secret cache of documents since the Pentagon Papers should have gone through at least the same level of scrutiny, if not more.

So how did no one in this chain of supervision pause to wonder whether it made sense to publish a password to a Wikileaks file of encrypted documents? The answer is that the Guardian was in a publishing race to get its account of the ground-shattering release of the Iraq and Afghan diaries out before any of its rivals, including the New York Times and Der Spiegel. It wanted to take as much glory as possible for itself in the hope of winning a Pulitzer. And it wanted to settle scores with Assange before his version of events was given an airing in either the New York Times or Der Spiegel books. Vanity and greed drove the Guardian’s decision to cut corners, even if it meant endangering lives.

  1. Nauseatingly, however, the Guardian not only seeks to blame Assange for its own mistake but tells a glaring lie about the circumstances. Its statement says: “No concerns were expressed by Assange or WikiLeaks about security being compromised when the book was published in February 2011. WikiLeaks published the unredacted files in September 2011.”

It is simply not true that Assange and Wikileaks expressed no concern. They expressed a great deal of concern in private. But they did not do so publicly – and for very good reason.

Any public upbraiding of the Guardian for its horrendous error would have drawn attention to the fact that the password could be easily located in Leigh’s book. By this stage, there was no way to change the password or delete the file, as has been explained to the Old Bailey hearing by a computer professor, Christian Grothoff, of Bern University. He has called Leigh a “bad faith actor”.

So Assange was forced to limit the damage quietly, behind the scenes, before word of the password’s publication got out and the file was located. Ultimately, six months later, when the clues became too numerous to go unnoticed, and Cryptome had published the unredacted file on its website, Assange had no choice but to follow suit.

This is the real story, the one the Guardian dare not tell. Despite the best efforts of the US lawyers and the judge at the Old Bailey hearings, the truth is finally starting to emerge. Now it is up to us to make sure the Guardian is not allowed to continue colluding in this crime against Assange and the press freedoms he represents.

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s article in full at Counterpunch and here to read his previous article also published by Counterpunch.

*

Update:

On October 3rd, Craig Murray spoke about the hearing with Chris Hedges on his RT show ‘On Contact’:

Leave a comment

Filed under Australia, Britain, Craig Murray, internet freedom, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky

Brazilian ex-President Lula da Silva on Op. Car Wash, Bolsonaro, Assange, US meddling and more

In April 2018 former Brazilian President Lula da Silva (of the Workers’ Party or PT) was convicted on charges of money laundering and corruption and sentenced to serve 12 years following the largest investigation into corruption in the country’s history; this was so-called Operation Car Wash.

Although Lula’s sentence was upheld at appeal, he has always vigorously denied all the charges and consistently claimed the case against him was politically motivated: Lula’s conviction immediately opening the way for Jair Bolsonaro to be elected with his main challenger now eliminated from the race. As if to settle the matter, Judge Sérgio Moro, who had presided over the case, was shortly afterward appointed as Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice:

In a transaction that even anti-Lula crusaders found highly distasteful, the judge who found Lula guilty and cleared the path for Bolsonaro’s ascension to the presidency — Judge Moro — thereafter accepted a position in Bolsonaro’s government that has been described as a “Super Justice Minister”: a newly designed position consolidating powers under Moro that had previously been dispersed among various agencies. It rendered Judge Moro — less than a year after putting Lula in prison and thus removing Bolsonaro’s key obstacle — one of the most powerful men in Brazil.

From an article written by Glenn Greenwald based around an interview he conducted with Lula while he was still in prison. In the same piece, Greenwald explains in more detail how Lula’s conviction paved the way for Bolsonaro’s accession:

Lula’s criminal conviction on corruption charges last year came under highly suspicious circumstances. All year long, polls showed him as the clear front-runner for the 2018 presidential race. After anti-PT forces finally succeeded with [former President] Dilma [Rousseff]’s impeachment in doing what they spent 16 years trying with futility to accomplish at the ballot box — removing PT from power — it seemed that Lula’s 2018 return to presidency was virtually inevitable and that only one instrument existed for preventing it: quickly convicting him of a felony which, under Brazilian law, would render him ineligible to run as a candidate. And that’s precisely what happened. 1

Lula was finally released in November 2019 after serving 580 days in prison. This followed revelations also published by Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept based on:

[G]roup chats between Car Wash prosecutors and conversations between task force coordinator Deltan Dallagnol and Moro, showing that the then-judge and the prosecutors were unethically and inappropriately collaborating in secret. Despite repeatedly insisting in public that they were acting ethically and impartially, the chats revealed that the judge was passing on advice, investigative leads, and inside information to the prosecutors — who were themselves plotting to prevent Lula’s Workers’ Party from winning last year’s election. 2

Click here to find the full “Secret Brazil Archive” published by The Intercept (The quote above is from Part 4 of the 14 part series).

On his release, Lula spoke to supporters saying, “They did not imprison a man. They tried to kill an idea.”

Adding that under Bolsonaro, “Brazil did not improve, Brazil got worse. The people are going hungry. The people are unemployed. The people do not have formal jobs. People are working for Uber – they’re riding bikes to deliver pizzas.” 3

Click here to read an earlier post about the coup against Dilma Rousseff entitled “‘Brazil’: now more than ever, a satire for our age”.

*

On Saturday, RT’s Going Underground devoted its show to an extended interview with Lula da Silva, which is embedded below. He told host Afshin Rattansi:

In Brazil some important things took place that the world needs to know about. For the first time in its history, during my government, Brazil became an international player. Brazil had created UNASUL [the Union of South American Nations] demonstrating a beautiful relationship within South America. Brazil had developed a relationship between South America and Africa; between South America and the Arab countries. Brazil had taken part in the creation of the BRICS. Brazil had created IBAS [or IBAS initiative (India, Brazil and South Africa), also called the G-3]. That is, Brazil was becoming an international player and that is something that the Americans never allowed.

Now Brazil is returning to the colonial period. After the coup on President Dilma, they would never want to have Lula back as the President of the Republic to continue our domestic social inclusion policy and our international protagonism policy. They want Brazil to continue to be a colony.

So they conjured this lie called the Car Wash Operation against me. They invented a lie during the procedure. They condemned me without any evidence. I’ve proved my innocence and I am waiting for them to prove any guilt on my part. I have challenged the Federal Prosecutor and the Judge who headed my trial. But I am much more concerned with Brazil at this moment. [from 4:55 mins]

*

Continuing:

We had eliminated hunger in Brazil and hunger has returned. We were in a process of raising education in this country and now we have a great setback in education as well as in science and technology.

We have major setbacks in the environmental legislation, in deforestation and in the preservation of our forests and out water resources. Obviously Brazil would be better off if I had been allowed to be a candidate [during the last Presidential elections]. They withdrew my candidacy for presidency with a legal procedure because they knew that if I ran in the elections I would have won in the first round.

And here in Brazil, a part of the country’s elite cannot stand to see poor people eating in restaurants, or travelling by plane, or buying cars. They cannot stand to see poor people ascending, which is what we achieved through hundreds of public policies to improve the lives of the poor people in this country.

I am proud that the President of the United Nations acknowledged that Brazil had eliminated hunger. I am proud that in 2010, Brazil was the country with the highest level of hope in the world – with the happiest people in the world – because we had so many expectations; so many dreams. And Brazil was about to become the fifth global economy.

Now we see Brazil experiencing a rise in poverty. People are hungry in Sao Paolo, in Rio de Janeiro and all over the country people have gone back to the streets. Wages dropped drastically and unemployment has risen. This is the country of the fascists who rule it.

I want a democratic country, a sovereign country, a country where people are happy and proud to say they are Brazilian. [from 6:25 mins]

When asked whether leaving the oligarchs in power to falsely prosecute him and afterwards to remove Dilma from office in a de facto coup, Lula replies:

I won an election; I did not start a revolution. I do not believe that a metalworker, like myself, could have become President of the Republic if it had not been for democracy; and if it had not been, most of all for democracy and for the Brazilian people’s comprehension and maturity when they voted.

I confess that I ruled for all. I doubt that there was any moment in Brazil’s history when everyone benefited so much. It is true that businesses won. It is true that bankers won. It is true that big landowners won. But it is also true that the poor workers won too.

We had the greatest pay rise for the poor during my government; the greatest rise in education. We are already known in history as the government that built the greatest number of universities and technical schools; invested the most in science and technology; and for sure we must have made mistakes, or else there would have been no coup against President Dilma.

The coup was the beginning of a new attitude in Brazil. In my opinion it was organised by the US Department of Justice with the participation of the CIA. We have video recordings. The Intercept has publicly exposed all the scams of the Federal Prosecutor and Judge Moro – and the participation of the US DOJ in destroying the construction and engineering sector in Brazil; the gas industry in Brazil; and the country’s politics. Because the US never accepted the fact that Brazil would become an international player.

You must remember that the US and Europe had a hard time dealing with Iran, because they could not reach an agreement with regards to uranium enrichment. Ambassador Celso Amorim and I went to Iran with the President of Turkey, and we were successful in convincing Iran to accept an agreement which was better than this deal that was signed by the Americans and the European Union.

Regretfully, when we proposed the agreement I expected that the US and the EU would thanks Brazil and Turkey; instead they applied more sanctions against Iran in a clear demonstration that they were telling us that Brazil is a small third world country that cannot meddle with major countries’ affairs.  [from 8:50 mins]

In 2008, Lula had also negotiated with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to win a contract with naval supplier DCNS [renamed Naval Group] for the sale of five submarines. This deal permitted a transfer of technology enabling Brazil to assemble four conventional submarines and one submarine with nuclear capability. During Operation Car Wash in 2016, DCNS was investigated over concerns of “corruption of foreign officials”. Asked about this part of the scandal, Lula says:

I am certain that the Americans did not agree that we should settle an agreement with France to build the nuclear submarine. I am certain that they did not appreciate it when I created the South American Defence Secretariat because as soon as we discovered the pre-salt oil, which was the major oil discovery of the twenty-first century – one thousand meters deep in the Atlantic Ocean – the Americans announced that they would reactivate their Fourth (maritime) Fleet in the Atlantic Ocean, which had ceased to operate after World War II.

Petrobras, the Brazilian state-run energy giant, had discovered the Tupi oilfield, which is located in the Santos Basin’s subsalt layer and estimated to hold recoverable reserves of between 5 billion and 8 billion barrels of oil, back in November 2007. It began pumping in May 2009. 4

Our oil is on the maritime border with international waters. So I believe that the US truly is interested in taking over our oil, just as they grabbed so much oil in so many countries around the world.

As you know Afshin, all political confusions around the world occur because of oil and the Americans do not want Petrobras, or the Brazilian people, to keep all that oil. [from 15:15 mins]

Lula also spoke about the assistance gave to his friend Hugo Chavez in Venezuela:

I had a fantastic relationship with President Chavez for many years, and I created a group of “Friends of Venezuela” to prevent any American intervention. And we were very successful during the Bush administration and later in the Obama administration with the following phrase: The people of Venezuela take care of democracy in Venezuela.

An American citizen who wins elections based on fake news like Trump has no moral authority to talk about democracy – likewise Bolsonaro in Brazil. Certainly I may have been naive, as well as Dilma, in believing in democracy; in believing in the conduct of the Brazilian elite, and we are paying the price for that. But nevertheless, I think that the solution is a democratic one. It involves democracy; freedom of the press; freedom of labour unions; freedom of association; respect for human rights. This is what motivates me and this is what I will fight for because it is only with democracy that we will be able to improve the quality of life of the poor; of the workers; and of the excluded people in our country. [from 17:00 mins]

Regarding the current political situation in Brazil, Lula says he thinks his former prosecutor Sérgio Moro will not run for President in 2022:

Moro will never become president. Moro was fabricated by Globo TV. Moro is an invention of the media and without the media, he is nothing. Moro is a citizen who I believe seems to be a coward because I have challenged him to debate with me. Now that he’s no longer a judge he could debate with me, but he won’t. And I do not think Globo will have the guts to support him. But if he is it is not a problem at all. [from 21:50 mins]

While at another point Lula says:

I am sure that Moro and [lead prosecutor of Op. Car Wash, Deltan] Dallagnol must take very heavy drugs to sleep because their conscience is not calm. They know that they lied about me. Dallagnol knows that he formed a gang in the Car Wash taskforce to pass on information to the US, and to strike a deal – a financial deal even – through which Dallagnol would raise a 200 million real fund to do something here in Brazil. My conscience is clear because my innocence is proven. Now I want to prove their guilt in the crimes they committed against Brazil. Attempting to destroy Brazil’s sovereignty.

Today I do not feel any hatred or resentment. I am actually destined to continue fighting for democracy, because as you know, although I will be 75-years old on October 27th, I have the energy of a thirty-year old and the political will of a twenty-year old. Therefore I still have a lot of energy to fight for democracy and for the Brazilian people and also to try to contribute to a world with new leaders that are more impetuous and brave for politics, because world governance nowadays has been outsourced.

Crises are no longer managed by governments, but rather by bureaucrats. So there are no more political leaders and this weakens politics and originates people of the like of Trump and Bolsonaro. [from 12:15 mins]

The full story is available in the “Secret Brazil Archive” at The Intercept but you can also read a summary of some of these allegation in a Guardian report published in June 2019.

Asked why he did nothing to reform oligarch-owned media in Brazil, Lula says:

I didn’t do anything because in Brazil to change the rules for the media you need to submit a bill to be voted in the National Congress and the majority in Congress being so conservative will never approve the rules to make the media more democratic.

We created a public TV channel. Certainly we did not make the necessary investments to make it competitive – not financially competitive – but competitive with regards to providing more information to society. This is something I regret not having one.

We developed a project to regulate the media – it was complete by mid-2009. We did not have support from Congress because elections would be held the following year, and we left it for the new administration. This is one thing that we will need to do when the PT returns to the government, because information that is meant for society cannot have an owner. Information cannot be conveyed to society from the viewpoint of ‘the economy’, or of a part of that society. [from 20:00 mins]

And regarding the incarceration and looming potential extradition to America of Julian Assange, Lula reminds us:

It is true that the Americans may hate Snowden because he was a State Department employee and he leaked information, but the fact is that Assange should be considered a hero by all democratic countries around the world. Because he was the one who used Snowden’s leaks to expose US espionage in Petrobras, in Brazil, in Germany, in Argentina, in France. That is why Assange cannot be handed over to the US. Assange should win the Nobel Peace Prize because he managed to expose the rotten espionage of the US in the rest of the world.

It is a pity that European and South American countries are not brave enough to stand up for Assange for all the good he did for mankind. [from 18:30 mins]

At the beginning of the interview, Afshin Rattansi asks Lula directly “why are you accusing your successor Jair Bolsonaro of genocide?” To which he replies:

For a very simple reason, our president did not take care of Brazil and of the Brazilian people as he should have done. This pandemic did not reach Brazil without prior notice. We already had experience of what was going on in other countries around the world, and the president should simply have done the obvious, only what common sense teaches us to do.

The president, since he doesn’t know about anything except weapons and violence, should have set up a technical committee with experts and scientists. He should have gathered all state governors as well as mayors and established a crisis committee to guide Brazilian society – to participate in the process of mitigating the impact of the pandemic in Brazil.

He did not do this. He decried the pandemic. He said that people should not wear masks. He proscribed a drug called chloroquinine to the population without any scientific basis. And to this date he continues to vulgarise death because effectively he does not believe in science, or in the Brazilian people, and he does not respect individuals. The only thing he does is compliment Trump and to try to copy the same foolish things that Trump does in the US. [from 1:27 mins]

Later in the interview, Lula is asked what he believes the likely consequences of Bolsonaro winning 2022 election will be, especially when it comes to impacts on the environment. He replies:

[Protection of] the Amazon must remain an issue for the Brazilian society. The Amazon does not need to have squatters or invaders. Instead of cattle breeders and soy bean farmers, the Amazon needs to be occupied by researchers, anthropologists and scientists to study its plants and animals, and all of the pharmacological wealth it has, as well as its potential to feed our society.

The Amazon is extraordinary for mankind and Brazil needs to have the obligation, the moral and ethical commitment, to preserve the Amazon in order to provide balance to Planet Earth. This is an irresponsibility of the Bolsonaro government, which has destroyed the entire surveillance system. Even the director of the agency that monitored deforestation with spatial imaging was dismissed. Now they are blaming the indigenous people and the small farmers for deforestation.

I have high hopes that in 2022, Brazil will return to democracy: that the people will elect a democrat for president who respects the environment and our air space; our borders; and who knows the meaning of our country’s sovereignty. [from 22:30 mins]

Adding finally:

I am convinced that the only solution we have is to strengthen democracy including for the American people now. They have the right to change American politics by electing someone who is civilised; someone who has some humanity; someone who has at least some respect for blacks, for native Americans, for the women and for differences between human beings. Therefore we have the duty to rebuild democracy in the world, so that we can prevent the destruction of Planet Earth, which is like a boat and we are all sinking in it.

I think we need to realise that the Americans are going backwards in exercising democracy. Recently I saw Trump calling Obama a communist. Calling Biden a communist. Calling Clinton a communist. He doesn’t even know what communism is.

I think ignorance is defeating intelligence and… intelligence, humanism, solidarity need to be restored in the world. The world today is being ruled by committees, not by governments. I think that governments need to rediscover their role in governance including the United Nations.

The UN needs to change its role. Today’s UN cannot be the same as it was in 1948. We need to have African countries in the UN Security Council. We need Latin American countries in the Security Council. And countries like India. It cannot be the same five countries as in 1948. We need to create a new global governance.

In 1948 the UN was strong enough to create the State of Israel. In 2020 the UN does not have the power to create the Palestinian state.

It is shameful because we need to renegotiate the role of the UN and other institutions. We need to discuss the IMF. What is the use of the IMF? What is the use of the World Bank?

I have already talked to Pope Francis. I have gone to the World Council of Churches in Geneva. We need a global campaign against inequality on our planet. It is not possible that half a dozen entrepreneurs in digital corporations make in one year what billions of human beings do not ever have. We also need to discuss the role of capitalism. And I am willing to do this.  [from 24:35 mins]

Note that: The transcript above is my own although based on the translation provided by the show. It is more or less complete but reordered with time stamps for each section.

*

1 From an article entitled “Watch: Interview With Brazil’s Ex-President Lula From Prison, Discussing Global Threats, Neoliberalism, Bolsonaro, and More” written by Glenn Greenwald, published in The Intercept on May 22, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2019/05/22/lula-brazil-ex-president-prison-interview/

2 From an article entitled “Their Little Show” which is Part 4 of a series of 14 articles based upon what is described as “A massive trove of previously undisclosed materials provid[ing] unprecedented insight into the operations of the anti-corruption task force that transformed Brazilian politics and gained worldwide attention”, entitled “Secret Brazil Archive” published by The Intercept. https://theintercept.com/series/secret-brazil-archive/ 

3 From an article entitled “Brazil’s former president Lula walks free from prison after supreme court ruling” written by Dom Phillips, published in the Guardian in November 8, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/08/lula-brazil-released-prison-supreme-court-ruling

4 https://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/75679/petrobras_pumps_first_crude_from_massive_tupi_field_offshore_brazil/ 

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Brazil, neo-liberalism, Venezuela